Lessons From Books: The Prophet

A hero’s journey has three parts. The journey starts with the call to action, where the hero leaves his known world and ventures into the unknown. The second phase is the adventure itself, which is full of trials and tribulations that result in inner growth and often with external reward. Last, the return home, the hero returns and shares his insight, new found knowledge, and his boon with his people. In The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, we find the central figure, Almustafa, The Chosen and The Beloved, about to start the last step of the hero’s journey and return to his isle of his birth. Before he departs, he shares the insight he has gained living in the city of Orphalese over the past twelve years. 

On Love

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him.

You don’t possess love but rather you follow it. When you give yourself up to love, you get both the highs and the lows. The highs of feeling loved, of loving someone, of carrying love within, but because you are so committed and vulnerable if that love leaves you or it diminishes over time, you feel heartache and sorrow which leaves you wounded. But you can’t have one without the other. You can’t truly feel love if you’re shielding yourself from the possible wound that may come with it. In a way, you know you’re in love if you’re willing to take on the potential pain that may come.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. 

Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Love requires a letting go. It requires trust. It requires obedience, so even when you’re hurt by it, next time you encounter it, you follow it anyway because life is more vivid if you experience it with love.

If you want love’s light, then you need to accept its shadow as well.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

And ultimately, you have to love for the sake of love itself. To live with that feeling inside of you. It’s a choice that you must make.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

On Marriage

The point of marriage is to nurture each other to become the best versions of yourselves. It is not to take from the other to fill some hole inside of you and vice versa. When you come together, you don’t become one, but rather, you stand apart, as individuals, who help the other share the burden of life and with it, help with the maturation of the individual. 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

To be married means to become two capable individuals. Not two people who need each other to become capable. Each has to create a solid foundation for themselves. Two people can share one foundation. In a marriage, you help the other in strengthening their foundation, but don’t take from the other to strengthen your own. 

On Children

Your children are not your children.


They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.


They come through you but not from you,


And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Your children don’t belong to you. They belong to life. Your duty is to raise them for life. They are individuals, separate from you. With their own identity, likes and dislikes, passions and beliefs which may contradict with you but that is okay because they have to be themselves and not a version of you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,


For they have their own thoughts.


You may house their bodies but not their souls,


For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.


You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

Nurture the individual, don’t try to mold them. You are to provide your child with stability and allow him/her to leave that stability behind and go seek, find and create their own stability. Don’t burden your child with your own hopes and dreams, rather let them find their own and then guide them towards fulfilling them.

On Giving

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”


The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.


Who are you to judge who earns your giving? You take from nature, nature doesn’t judge you. You are truly selfless if you can separate your judgement from your giving.

On Working

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

Life is about working. It is about moving, changing, progressing, acting. Everything on this planet is in motion and working. It is natural to work. All animals work. So dreaming about retirement, to be idle and passive is to go against nature. At the same time, you’re not obligated to work every day but you must have something to work towards. 

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,


And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

To work is the dream. Hopefully, that attitude can apply to your career, but if not, then towards your hobbies and interests, towards your family life, your community, and society. Working always to build something better.

What It Means To Work With Love

And what is it to work with love?


It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.


It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.


It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.


It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,


And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

On Joy and Sorrow

Joy and sorrow go hand in hand. The more you open yourself up to one, the more you open yourself up to the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.


And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.


And how else can it be?


The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The duality of life. Often if you want to experience the highest joy, you have to open yourself up to the highest sorrow. Chasing your dream will bring you great pleasure, but failing to achieve it will leave you full of disappointment and pain. Being in love will feel better than anything, but losing love will cause sorrow unimaginable.

On Crime and Punishment

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.


But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,


So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

Each individual is capable of the highest virtue and lowest vice. If another man does something heinous, understand that you could have done that too. You are not special. In different circumstances and environments, you would have been that individual who commits evil. You are not above evil. Observe and learn from your fellow man. 

So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Don’t just condemn the bad action. See why it took place. You are not trying to justify the bad but rather, seeing how it could have been avoided. 

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

Pain is associated with understanding. You feel pain when you think you understand something, but it turns out you are wrong. Although that causes pain, through it you gain a new understanding. So, pain isn’t something that should be avoided at all costs. It is a part of your progression. It is painful to have your ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs challenged and even proven wrong. But through this pain, you make new ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs which stand on sturdier foundations.

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

View pain like this and you know it shall pass. As the season’s turn, your pain will change. But also remember, joy follows this pattern too. So on joyful occasions, understand that it will pass and pains downpour will come. So, while you are in the moment, enjoy it. Both things are part of life and both things will not last. 

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

Only things you care about cause you pain. So, be careful about the things you care about. Ask yourself, are you willing to experience pain on its behalf? 

On Self Knowledge

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Much of life is about finding your way of life. The truth that works for you. Not universal truth, but a truth to satisfy your soul, your being. Your methods of living will not satisfy other people. Other people’s methods will not satisfy you. The sooner you understand that, the better. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of your precious time living someone else’s truth or trying to convince others to live your truth. 

On Friendship 

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

On Good And Evil 

You are good when you are one with yourself.

Don’t lie to yourself.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.

Help others.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,

Don’t lie to others.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.

Have an aim.


You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,

You are only loitering and sluggard.

Good can also become evil through desperation. This is an important reminder. You never know what you are capable of until you are pushed to your limits. People are rarely evil from birth. It is often circumstances and their environment that cause them to do evil. Don’t just judge people who have done bad things, but try to see why they did it so you can know what you might be capable of doing and how to stop yourself from getting to that point. 

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.


For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?


Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

Self Perspective 

You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.

This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.

To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.

To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.

Don’t harp on the negative, on the failures, or disappointments. Those things easily stand out and focusing on them too much can cause you to develop a negative self-image. The weak links of your actions can make you think you are weak too. Life is full of weak moments but it is also full of strong ones as well. Remember, you have achieved things, no matter how minute they may seem, but anything that required effort, hard work, discipline to achieve is something to be proud of. Cookie Jar. Those achievements are the strong links and focusing on them lets you know you are strong as well and that you can achieve other things that require strength. 

Lessons From Books: The Obstacle Is The Way

In the book, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday takes lessons from some of the most notable men and women throughout human history on how they overcame their specific obstacles and compiles them in one place. As the book title suggests, the book is about overcoming obstacles and Holiday believes we overcome obstacles through three critical steps: Perception, Action and The Will.

One thing that is stressed throughout the book is not to walk blindly through life. If you do, then you’ll be constantly thrown about. Instead, what you need are principles and frameworks that are specific to you so this can include working on a positive mindset, self-affirmations, set of reminders, principles to live your life by, being cool-headed and having self disciple like Rockefeller, building the habit of taking action and practicing to overcome your weak spots like Demosthenes, humility, endurance and compassionate of Lincoln, and so on.

By doing so, he shows what we require is a

Method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us.

The following are lessons to help build that framework.

Lessons:

On Perception

Perception plays a key role in overcoming obstacles. Our perception can aid an obstacle in becoming an obstacle. Also, “through our perception of events, we are complicit in the creation—as well as the destruction—of every one of our obstacles.”

There is bad perception and good perception. Bad perception comes from being emotional, subjective, and shortsighted. If you cannot perceive the obstacle in the correct manner, then overcoming them becomes difficult because your aim/method will be wrong. It’s not about the obstacle, it’s about our reaction and attitude towards it. A failure to one individual can be critical, but the same failure to another can propel them onwards because they perceived the failure correctly and didn’t add to it with their own emotions or attitudes. 

A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit – Seneca

You can’t see the opportunity if you can’t control your emotions and are subjective and impulsive. Every situation is an opportunity to prove your worth, to better yourself, to practice virtue or discipline, but the right perception is required.

Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness—these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.

Fear and panic are two emotions that breathe life into bad perception. If your decisions are rooted in fear or caused by panic, then you are most likely creating further obstacles.

The perceiving eye is weak; the observing eye is strong – Miyamoto Musashi

Practice objectivity when you can. Acknowledging an event happened is objective, believing that event was bad, is subjective. Besides, your problem isn’t unique. People have tackled the same problems for centuries, find examples of how people overcame your situation.

That we are scared of obstacles because our perspective is wrong—-that a simple shift in perspective can change our reaction entirely.

Have A Clear Vision

Work ethic combined with vision gets things done. Vision provides the aim, the target, and the work ethic provides the movement towards that target. Some people have poor vision because they believe in the obstacle more than in the goal. You are conceding to the obstacle before you even attempt to overcome it. We can relate vision to the importance of belief. You have to believe that you can overcome whatever obstacle is in front of you and achieve your goal. Once that is settled, then you can create a plan of action that achieves your goal.

Take Action

The right and effective actions are made up of deliberation, boldness, and persistence. The action is performed in the service of the whole. The whole is the goal. So, the small steps, movements, efforts, habits, what may seem like insignificant choice of discipline, all add up to the completion of the whole. It all moves you towards your goal.

A part of overcoming obstacles is ownership.

No excuses. No exceptions. No way around it.

No one is going to get rid of the obstacles for you. You have to do it yourself. This may require self-reflection and change of habits and mindset and/or making new habits, developing new skills, getting out of your comfort zone. Whatever it may be, the primary requirement is yourself and the actions or the inactions you commit. Make it happen; create the change. 

The start doesn’t matter. What matters is the momentum. So say yes and ask yourself: Could you be doing more?

On Persistence

Genius often really is just persistence in disguise.

Persistence is defined as a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Life is hard. Achieving your goals is difficult. There are and will be many obstacles in your way. These are facts that you have to accept. Your first steps will not work. Accept that reality. Accept the reality that many failures await you. Persist towards your goals anyway.

Working at it works. It’s that simple.

A way to persist is by living in the moment and controlling what you can influence right at this moment, which are your actions. Don’t be overly concerned about the end goal. There is a lot of room between the start and the finish. If you’re constantly thinking about the finish, it’s easy to get discouraged when that line seems like it hasn’t moved. Instead, in order to persist, focus on the small multitude of steps you have to cover before you can get to that finish. Do the right thing, right now, in the present moment. Don’t worry about the rest. Just one clean movement after the other.

Excellence is a matter of steps.

Concentrate on making the tough choices, the hard decisions, ones that will bring long-term benefits, ones that sacrifice short-term pleasure.

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up – Chuck Palahniuk

Have Pride

It is cliche to say that you should try to do whatever job it is the best you can, but that really matters. Putting your best effort into what you’re doing, no matter how trivial, reinforces positive habits and mindset.

You are the sum of your actions.

These are the steps that will matter when you get a different opportunity. If you get into the bad habit of half-assed effort, then when you start your “dream” job, that habit will poison it.

But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now. You just phone it all in, cash your paycheck, and dream of some higher station in life. Or you think, This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter.

Foolishness.

Be Pragmatic

We spend a lot of time thinking about how things are supposed to be, or what the rules say we should do. Trying to get it all perfect. We tell ourselves that we’ll get started once the conditions are right, or once we’re sure we can trust this or that. When, really, it’d be better to focus on making due with what we’ve got. On focusing on results instead of pretty methods.

A form of self-sabotage is this need to have perfect conditions. Instead, you have to find the way despite your conditions.

Think progress, not perfection. 

Find the best approach to get the desired results. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t the “right” way. The way is the one that produces results.

Have a strategic approach to your goals. Don’t just have a goal out in the future, instead, break it down into smaller and smaller steps. Steps that you can put into action and will help you make progress.

The process is about finishing. Finishing games. Finishing workouts. Finishing film sessions. Finishing drives. Finishing reps. Finishing plays. Finishing blocks. Finishing the smallest task you have right in front of you and finishing it well.

The root cause of our dissatisfaction and failure to achieve our goals is our attitude and approach. Don’t have this fixed mindset where if you fail once you just assume that you’re not good at it or this goal isn’t meant for you. Instead, assess your performance and failure and approach again with a slight tweak. View your approach as a hypothesis. If the hypothesis fails, you have to make adjustments to it and run the tests again.

On Will Power

Will power means to have the endurance for the long haul. Your will is under your control and you can apply it when the going gets tough, which it eventually will because life has many difficulties. You will fail many times at attempting your goal but to keep on trying, that’s what it means to have endurance. 

One way to strengthen your willpower is through physical exercise. To put your body through tough regimens that will cause you to question whether or not you want to do it again. Every time you can overcome such thoughts and feelings, it will strengthen your resolve. 

We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardness through mental practice […] Many (Ancient Philosophers) saw themselves as mental athletes—after all, the brain is a muscle like any other active tissue. It can be built up and toned through the right exercises. Over time, their muscle memory grew to the point that they could intuitively respond to every situation. Especially obstacles.

Perseverance is another aspect of willpower.

Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance.

Staying power. It is by sticking your ass to the seat and not leaving until the work is done. It is the quality you need, along with discipline, to make progress in life. The ability to grind.

There are far more failures in the world because of a collapse of will than there will ever be from objectively conclusive external events.

Perspective Towards Life

Life is a process of breaking through these impediments—a series of fortified lines that we must break through.

Each time, you’ll learn something. Each time, you’ll develop strength, wisdom, and perspective. Each time, a little more of the competition falls away. Until all that is left is you: the best version of you.

Concentrate on making progress and not trying to hit the home run with each swing. The big swings and misses cause discouragement. Instead, live a purposeful life that consists of several small steps in the service of the whole.

Great Quotes:

What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool-headedness. This he can get only by practice – Theodore Roosevelt

With the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like – Henry Rollins

Death makes life purposeful.

Behind mountains are more mountains – Haitian proverb

Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones.

To be great at something takes practice. Obstacles and adversity are no different.

Action, Action, Action! – Demosthenes

My formula for greatness in human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it – Nietzsche

Lessons from Books: The Magic Of Thinking Big

The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz tackles many fundamental qualities needed to excel in life. Qualities such as belief systems, positive thinking, discipline, taking action, overcoming fear, making relationships, setting goals, creating value systems, and much more are not only defined in a way to show their significance, but Dr. Schwartz also gives practical guidelines and practices to follow which will embolden these qualities in the reader.

The following are some of the main takeaways from the book.

Lessons:

The Importance of Belief

Belief works this way. Belief, the “I’m positive-I-can” attitude, generates the power, skill, and energy needed to do. When you believe I-can-do-it, the how-to-do-it develops.

Belief is the initial step to taking action and is often the step many people lack because they cannot see themselves achieving their goal. If you lack the belief then you will never try to figure out how you can accomplish your goal. However, once you believe you can accomplish ‘X’, then you can ask:

How will you make this belief come true?

When you answer this question, you may realize that you are lacking in certain skill sets, or understandings, or developments, or relationships that you will need in order to turn your belief into reality. This is a good thing. It means there is a path towards achieving your goal. So, what was once just hopeful wishing can become a reality through your actions.

But if you lacked the belief in the first place, then you would not have been able to formulate a plan of action. You would not have objectively seen what is required to get to your goal.

Belief releases creative powers. Disbelief puts the brakes on.

Similar to the chain reaction that occurs when you believe, disbelieving also leads you to a path. But unlike the path believing creates, disbelieving shows you a path away from what you hope to achieve by giving you excuses and reasons not to work for your potential future.

By disbelieving, you narrow your worldview, and with it, you narrow your potential. The easiest thing in the world is to find reasons not to work and sacrifice your present comfort.

Thinking does make it so. The fellow who thinks he is inferior, regardless of what his real qualifications may be, is inferior. For thinking regulates actions. If a man feels inferior, he acts that way, and no veneer of cover-up or bluff will hide for long this basic feeling. The person who feels he isn’t important, isn’t. On the other side, a fellow who really things he is equal to the task, is.

How To Overcome Fear

The old “it’s-only-in-your-mind treatment” presumes fear doesn’t really exist. But it does. Fear is real. Fear is success enemy No. 1. Fear stops people from capitalizing on opportunity; fear wears down physical vitality; fear actually makes people sick, causes organic difficulties, shortens life; fear closes your mouth when you want to speak.

You can find reasons to avoid your fears. One way to do that is by thinking it’s all in your head. This type of thinking avoids fear because you never confront it. What you need to do is take what causes you fear and give it life. Take it from the abstract and write it down on a piece of paper. This way you know exactly what is causing you to fear and once you know that you can make an actionable plan to overcome it. 

An exercise such as Fear Setting can help you practice how to confront and overcome fear.

Two interconnected ways to overcome fear are confidence and action. Often your fears arise from a feeling of inadequacy. Thinking that you aren’t up to the task or don’t have the ability to achieve your goal. This goes hand in hand with action because typically, the lack of action creates self-confidence issues which results in second guessing your capabilities and giving power to your fears.

All confidence is acquired, developed.

Action is vital to living a good life. Through action, you can build confidence because as you achieve things, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, the achievement creates positive momentum which can lead you to overcome bigger fears. It can work the other way around too. You can almost delude yourself into believing that you can overcome fear and then create a plan that does so. When you act, then what seems like this big scary monster comes undone and you can pick it apart slowly. 

Action cures fear.

Ask yourself: “What kind of action can I take to conquer my fears?”

By asking this question, you can then isolate your fear and make it easier to build a plan around it. 

Growth Through Self Reflection

Practice adding value to yourself. Conduct a daily interview with yourself. Ask, “What can I do to make myself more valuable today?” Visualize yourself not as you are but as you can be. Then specific ways for attaining your potential value all suggest themselves.

This is where keeping a personal journal can be helpful. You can use the journal as a daily interview, almost as if it is the journal pages ask you questions such as:

How can you improve from yesterday? What did you do yesterday (or the past week/month) that you disliked? What is one habit you want to change? What is one habit you want to implement? How can you make progress in your work? How can you improve your relationships? What is one dietary change you want to make? What are your workout goals? What can I do to make myself more deserving of the next opportunity? And so on.

In reality, answering any one of these questions one time won’t result in a grand change. But the process is important. Repeatedly thinking about these questions and answering them. Most of the time you require hundreds of repeatable actions before you see change. So, consistently answering self-reflective questions will slowly change your trajectory towards the potential individual you wish to be. 

Journals can also help with self-criticism. However, there is a proper method to being self critical. You don’t want to be overly negative and belittling towards yourself. That will damage your confidence and momentum, but at the same time you want to hold yourself accountable.

Don’t, of course, try to find your faults so you can say to yourself, “here’s another reason I’m a loser.” Instead view your mistakes as “Here’s another way to make me a bigger winner.

Practice positivity even when you are dissecting your mistakes and actions. After all, any improvement you make will move you towards a better version of yourself so the outcome is positive, hence, the view should be positive as well. 

Comparison can also be a good way to reflect and be critical. Once again, you don’t want to compare yourself to others in a way that damages your psyche. But if you pick four or five individuals who are successful in parts of life where you’d like to be successful as well, and this doesn’t have to be work, it can be health, relationships, hobbies, you can then compare your attitude, beliefs, habits, actions, mindsets to these individuals and see how you differ and what changes you can bring about that will align you more towards these individuals. 

Take Care of Your Mental Diet

The body is what the body is fed. By the same token, the mind is what the mind is fed. Mind food, of course, doesn’t come in packages and you can’t buy it at the store. Mind food is your environment—all the countless things which influence your consciousness and subconscious thought. The kind of mind food we consume determines our habits, attitudes, personality. Each of us inherited a certain capacity to develop. But how much of that capacity we have developed and the way we have developed that capacity depends on the kind of mind food you feed it.

In order to be physically healthy, you need a well-balanced diet. Keep your fats, carbs, and sugar in check. Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Fasting has important benefits to the body and as do well-timed cheat meals.

The same principles apply to your mental diet. Make sure you’re not consuming too much junk, such as mindless forms of entertainment or web browsing. Have a well-balanced mental diet which can include fiction and non-fiction books, documentaries, varied forms of news intake, and even taking classes on subjects you find interesting. Similar to how you would lower your sugar intake to a specific level, you can lower your social media consumption to perhaps two ten-minute breaks a day. View fasting breaks as disconnecting from the internet or television. But don’t forget to give yourself a break and cheat by watching your favorites shows or reality television in a structured manner. 

Effort Before The Reward

You don’t get a raise on the promise of better performance; you get a raise only by demonstrating better performance. You can’t harvest money unless you plant the seeds that grow money. And the seed of money is service. Put service first and more takes care of itself.

Your work comes with a degree of faith. Faith that someday your efforts will produce the fruits that you desire. But you cannot expect the fruits of your labour before you put in the effort. In today’s climate, where it seems as if people can become rich and successful overnight, especially because of social media, you can get this false sense of obligation. As if you are obligated to the reward right away. That if you put in a few hours, you should see an uptick in your bank account or likes and follows. But that mindset is not correct because it puts the rewards before the effort. Work for the sake of the work.

Reminder: The work is the dream.

Always give people more than they expect to get.

Be About The Action

Being active is a mindset that can be built, and for there, the habit of acting comes. When you create a resolution to be active, your mind gets ignited to think of ways to accomplish goals and to take action. 

A lot of times your inactivity stems from fear. You are afraid to fail, get embarrassed, be disappointed so you choose the option that will avoid that potential outcome, which is inactivity. However, passivity only avoids short-term suffering but compounds long term suffering as you come to live with regret and think about the “what ifs” all your life. And evidently, the thing that can cure your fear is the very thing you are avoiding: Action.

Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Here’s something to remember. Action feeds and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act. to increase fear—wait, put off, postpone.

Verbalizing and/or writing the worst-case outcome can help you make better decisions. Write what’s the worse thing that can happen if you choose to act, and if you do not act. Often when you write it down and accept the worst case, you realize it was more frightening in your mind. And that in reality, you can handle that potential outcome or at the very least you can prepare yourself to dull the impact of it.

Another way to make sure that you are focusing on acting is by creating routines and habits that lead towards action. You can rely too much on your mood or feelings. Everyone has said at least once in their life “I don’t feel like it,” or “when I’m in the right mood I’ll do it”. Having to rely on something that can change at the whim of the moment isn’t exactly the smartest thing. Instead, have to remind yourself that you’re ready to go right now, that you can work now. 

Action must precede action. That’s is a law of nature.

Routines that lead you towards your primary task are actions that will create actions. Think of them as warm-ups or stretches before your principal work. Let’s say you want to be more active in the morning, then a simple action that can lead to more productivity is having your alarm clock away from your bed so that you have to physically get up to turn it off. This makes it easier to start your day because you are already up, rather than lying around in bed for twenty-thirty minutes after your alarm has gone off and now you have to rush through the morning. So the routine changes from hitting the snooze button to throwing your blanket off and leaving your bed right away.

Importance of Having Goals

Goals are as essential to success as air is to life. No one ever stumbles into success without a goal. No one ever lives without air. Get a clear fix on where you want to go.

View yourself as a business. Every corporation has things like a ten-year plan. What is yours? Not just for future goals but the future you. What characteristics, habits, routines do you see your future self having?

The person determined to achieve maximum success learns the principle that progresses made one step at a time. A house is built a brick at a time. Football games are won a play at a time. A department store grows bigger one new customer at a time. Every big accomplishment is a series of little accomplishments.

This is why it’s important for you to figure out your personal, career, and health goals. Once you have the end goal or at least a future mark, you can then work on the little steps you need to take in order to get there. 

Do this: Start marching toward your ultimate goal by making the next task you perform, regardless of how unimportant it may seem, a step in the right direction. Commit this question to memory and use it to evaluate everything you do. “Will this help take me where I want to go? If the answer is no, back off; if yes, press ahead.

Great Quotes:

You must feel important to succeed.

Practice uplifting self-praise. Don’t practice belting self-punishment.

The success combination is do what you do better (improve the quality of your output) and do more of what you do (increase the quantity of your output).

But you can wager every cent you have the bricklayer who visualized himself as building a great cathedral did not remain a bricklayer.

Success depends on the support of other people.

We can try and try, and try and try and try again, and still fail unless we combine persistence with experimentation.

Lessons From Books: The War Of Art

Steven Pressfield defines Resistance as self-sabotage. Essentially, any action you take or don’t take that leads you away from your goals results from Resistance. This can vary from indulging in procrastinating, giving into thoughts like “let me just spend another five minutes on my phone” or “I feel hungry, let me grab some food first before I start my work” to more long-term consequences such as the relationships you choose to stay in or the career paths you follow. These are conscious decisions you make, hence why Pressfield associates Resistance with self-sabotage. In his book, The War of Art, he dives further into the specifics of Resistance and how to identify and overcome Resistance.

Lessons:

Resistance Dwells In The Moments Prior To Taking Action

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Typically, the actual act of doing something isn’t daunting. What is daunting are the moments before the action when you allow your mind to get the best of you. Your thoughts are flooded with distractions, negativity, and fear which keeps you from acting. Thoughts that want to delay actions, whether that be for just another moment or day to even months or years. If you can overcome the initial discomfort and Resistance and simply act, all those prior thoughts and feelings go away and the work takes over. Two main takeaways from this experience are that the fight against Resistance starts way before the actual action, and only through action do we overcome Resistance. 

The Consequences Of Giving In To Resistance

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

This may sound dramatic, but it is a realistic perspective towards your failure to control your desires. Resistance desires comfort and immediate gratification. There two things are often the polar opposite of what you need in order to grow and attain your goals. We all have an ideal version of ourselves. The one who has achieved everything we wanted and became the person we desire to be. Each time you yield to Resistance, a piece from that version loses its boldness. Each time you overcome Resistance, a piece of that version becomes emboldened, solidifying. So, attaching a sense of urgency and fate, it can cause you to think twice before acting in a manner that aligns with what Resistance desires.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution; the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

How To Use Resistance Against Itself

Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long-term growth, health or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.

When you feel Resistance, then you know you are likely on the right path, about to take the right action. This way, wherever there is Resistance, there is your path. This is like the notion the Philosopher-Emperor Marcus Aurelius expressed regarding the obstacles in your life determine the path you should take.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Additionally, when you act and you feel no Resistance, then perhaps you are doing what Resistance wants. Reflect on your feelings prior to taking action and you will determine whether Resistance is manipulating you.

The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Fear derived from Resistance is your ally. It’s because you want something so badly that emotion like fear surfaces. The more we want something, the greater the fear of failure becomes. Resistance focuses your thoughts on failure rather than the feeling of accomplishment that is equally possible. But in order to open yourself to the highest of pleasures, you have to be open to the highest of failures. Resistance wishes to dim the pain and stay as comfortable as you can in the short term. Whether you overcome and give in to Resistance depends on the choice you make between the amount of pleasure you want.

Develop Mental Endurance

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Jocko Willink has a saying that applies perfectly to battling Resistance: The count is always zero. All the work you did yesterday, all the words you wrote, all the actions you took, all the repetitions and sets you did, and so on and so forth are back to zero when the new day begins and resistance waits for you again as you attempt to do your work all over. It’s good that you overcame Resistance yesterday and did what you needed to do. But today, it’s back to zero. This also applied to the mistakes you made and if you gave into Resistance yesterday. Today it’s back to zero, and yesterday’s failure need not be amplified. So it is best to build mental and physical endurance because you are in it for the long haul.

Sharpen Your Self Control

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Resistance is such a master. It comes in many forms: social media, television consumption, radical ideas, self-loathing, web surfing, materialism. Essentially, anything that takes away your influence over yourself and places it in the hands of another person or thing. You have a responsibility to self-reflect. To see what consumes your thoughts and what drives your actions. Resistance may control you without your knowledge.

A way to strengthen self-control is through fasting. Not just dietary fasting, but also depriving and/or limiting your interactions with the external world. You can view fasting as a form of delaying gratification. You are in control of your technological diet, relationship diet, negative/pessimistic thinking diet. Whether you apply the concept to your physical health or your mental health or building healthy habits, it works the same way. The more you deny access to things that give you an immediate dose of dopamine, the more control you have over yourself.

Focus Your Efforts And Thoughts On Your Work

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work.

Daydreaming and envisioning success have their value, but they can be a deterrent to actual action. Because of the time you should spend working, you are spending on fantasies. But also because grandiose fantasies can create fear because you might not believe you can ever achieve these dreams.

Not to mention things rarely come to fruition as you envision them.

Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tires, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work.

So, if the results and/or success don’t match your expectations, then you might get discouraged to keep working. There will never be the perfect situation, the perfect time, perfect childhood, perfect health, or mental state to start your work. Have to learn to make the best of the imperfect present and get your work done.

While in reality, the work is the dream as the five-time NBA champion, Kobe Bryant said. 

But hopefully what you get from tonight is that those times when you get up early and you work hard; those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when you don’t feel like working — you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself — but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.

Resistance is overcome by being a professional, and a professional is concerned only about his work.

Beware of Rational Thought

Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man. Its job is to keep us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.

The issue with rationalization is that it raises legitimate points, so it is easy to give in to it. You can always rationalize a reason not to do something. You can rationalize missing a workout by how tired you are feeling. You can rationalize a half-assed effort at work by determining how hard you worked yesterday. You can find legitimate cultural, genetic, financial reasons your dreams aren’t feasible. You can even rationalize your current mode of being to bad luck and fate.

More often than not that reason either stems from a fear of being uncomfortable because these rational choices point you towards inaction, towards staying where you are. But If you focus on the long-term goal and benefits, then the rational argument is weakened. Your physical and mental make-up changes through work. Your position in life only changes through work. Your dreams come true only through work. Your luck changes through work. Rational or irrational, you need to put the effort in. We all know what we should do and what we shouldn’t. Sometimes it is as simple as shutting that mind off, and Resistance along with it, and going to work. 

Lessons From Stories: Kafka On The Shore

Kafka On The Shore is a novel by Haruki Murakami. The narrative follows two central characters, Kafka and Nakata, as they interact with other humans, cats, spirits, and even figures like Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Walker. Murakami uses aspects of magical realism in order to explore concepts such as fate and past trauma. It’s in this exploration of life that we can find valuable lessons.

Lessons:

Embrace The Storm

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step.

[…]

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

Fate is at the core of Murakami’s novel. Kafka’s fate is to confront his mother, who abandoned him at a young age. All his actions lead him towards this fate. He tries to run away from it, to hide from it, but he is constantly driven towards his fate. He eventually relents to the inevitable and faces his fate/storm in order to grow.

Such storms are always present in our life. We can view them as fate or perhaps challenges and obstacles life has set in front of us. Trials for us to complete and mature or to ignore and hide from and remain the same person. These storms can involve our career choices, relationships, habits, or ideologies. The very thing that causes us discomfort is what we need.

Of course, real life is not like a story. Our life isn’t a plot that will cause us to confront the uncomfortable aspects. Here is where the story of Kafka can influence us. If Kafka never confronted his mother, then he would always be a prisoner to his past feelings. But because he was able to come to terms with his abandonment issues, he was freed.

The story urges us to face our storm or fate, so we can gain a better understanding of who we are and move forward in life freely.

Take Responsibility

It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities. Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.

This is significant in two ways. First, the more practical approach. Taking responsibility for our lives and our actions. We have to imagine that we have some control over our circumstances, whether good or bad. Our actions matter. Our choices matter and so, through our imagination, we can then develop ownership of our actions and thus create order.

Second, the potentials that imagination opens up also require our responsibility. If we imagine ourselves running a marathon, then it becomes a responsibility to work towards that imagination. This is true with creating art, traveling, setting goals, and so on. We have to imagine it first and then bring it to life.

Be Open

“If I had to say anything it’d be this: Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.”

Nothing ever comes exactly the way we expect. There has to be a sense of letting go when we seek whatever it is that we want. To give up control and accept whatever it is that life thinks is best suited for us.

Otherwise, with a close mind, we can overlook the blessings presented to us.

Have Empathy Towards Others

“Miss Saeki’s life basically stopped at age twenty, when her lover died. No, maybe not age twenty, maybe much earlier…I don’t know the details, but you need to be aware of this. The hands of the clock buried inside her soul ground to a halt then. Time outside, of course, flows on as always, but she isn’t affected by it. For her, what we consider normal time is essentially meaningless.”

[…]

“Kafka, in everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”

The character of Miss Saeki is portrayed as a shell of a human being. Her essence, her spirit, is stuck in a time when she was happily in love. However, a traumatic incident caused her to be severed from the present and to live in the past.

Miss Saeki is a fictional character, but her portrayal is very much real. From an outsider’s point of view, Miss Saeki appears perfectly normal. Just as we may think of the people we encounter in our daily life. We cannot know what is going on inside the person’s head. We don’t know what past events still haunt them. This is why empathy and kindness need to be at the forefront of our actions.

These two qualities can be viewed as a luxury, for we may not receive them from others. However, we all have the capability of showing these qualities and it becomes an obligation to do so, regardless of whether others show it to us.

As long as there’s such a thing as time, everybody’s damaged in the end, changed into something else. It always happens, sooner or later.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

“Man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man. That’s the basic worldview of Greek drama. And the sense of tragedy—according to Aristotle—comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist’s weak points but from his good qualities. Do you know what I’m getting at? People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues.”

Too much unselfishness can breed greed, as others can take advantage of the unselfish nature. Too much love can breed resentment, as the person can be viewed as overbearing. We can have a boundless work ethic in order to improve our life or our family’s life but can end up with a broken home because of overworking.

In themselves, no virtue is good or bad, but when the human element is added to the mix, then there needs to be some kind of boundary. Otherwise, what we imagine being a good thing can cause negativity.

The Ebb and Flow of Life

“Picture a bird perched on a thin branch,” she says. “The branch sways in the wind, and each time this happens the bird’s field of vision shifts. You know what I mean?”

[…]

“It bobs its head up and down, making up for the sway of the branch. Take a good look at birds the next time it’s windy. I spend a lot of time looking out that window. Don’t you think that kind of life would be tiring? Always shifting your head every time the branch you’re on sways?

“I do.”

“Birds are used to it. It comes naturally to them. They don’t have to think about it, they just do it. So it’s not as tiring as we imagine. But I’m a human being, not a bird, so sometimes it does get tiring.”

“You’re on a branch somewhere?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she says. “And sometimes the wind blows pretty hard.”

We can see the natural rhythm of life as the individual trying to remain stable as events outside of their control create disorder. The actions of other people, chance events, unlucky instances, absurd misfortunes are to us what the wind is to a bird. Knocking us about, disrupting our flow, causing us to readjust. So, there is a constant ebb and flow, push and pull, as we adjust to the new rhythm of life and just as we master the new, another challenge arises.

The cycle is endless, and it is by accepting this cycle that can gain some peace of mind. So that when we are knocked off balance, we don’t view it as some grave misfortune but as the natural rhythm of life. And perhaps we can even be prepared for the next gust of wind.

True Inner Strength

“The strength I’m looking for isn’t the kind where you win or lose. I’m not after a wall that’ll repel power coming from outside. What I want is the kind of strength to be able to absorb that outside power, to stand up to it. The strength to quietly endure things—unfairness, misfortune, sadness, mistakes, misunderstandings.”

Too often we wish that nothing bad happens to us. But that just isn’t realistic. Hoping gets us nowhere. What we need is to cultivate certain characteristics so that when misfortune strikes, we can manage them in a calm and orderly manner. One practice is to meditate on the worst possible scenario, as the Stoics advised. So when bad things happen, we aren’t surprised by them.

Another way to cultivate inner strength is by purposely exposing ourselves to suffering. Whether it be physical training, which can help with mental endurance, or by constantly trying new things and failing, and trying again. Both of these tactics can bring us insight into how to endure. How to be patient. How to deal with that inner voice which wants comfort and ease. How to dust ourselves off and keep going.

This type of thinking puts the control in our hands. Gives us an understanding of how to behave when faced with difficult challenges.

Overcome Yourself

“You have to overcome the fear and anger inside you,” the boy named Crow says. “Let a bright light shine in and melt the coldness in your heart. That’s what being tough is all about.”

We all have our defects. No individual is perfect. Part of living is about finding the pieces of yourself which are broken or maybe even missing and mending them and creating them anew.

“Even though she loved you, she had to abandon you. You need to understand how she felt then, and learn to accept it. Understand the overpowering fear and anger she experienced, and feel it as your own—so you won’t inherit it and repeat it. The main thing is this: You have to forgive her. That’s not going to be easy, I know, but you have to do it. That’s the only way you can be saved. There’s no other way!”

“Mother, you say, I forgive you. And with those words, audibly, the frozen part of your heart crumbles.”

The core of the novel is Kafka coming to terms with the abandonment by his mother. He gets angry; he lashes out; he runs away from home but wherever he goes; he carries with him this burden that his mother left him. Until he can come to terms with that, he’ll never truly evolve and grow. Once more, this requires Kafka to overcome himself. To forgive someone requires us to subdue our own feelings and our ego. Kafka is able to do so and move on with his life. But many people get stuck in the past. They harbor a singular event or person and let the past dictate their present. To be free in the present, we have to face the past and deal with it and in turn, deal with our own issues. This is what Kafka’s journey is all about.

Great Lines

“Mr. Nakata, this world is a terribly violent place. And nobody can escape the violence. Please keep that in mind. You can’t be too cautious. The same holds true for cats and human beings.”

“There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness is a story.”

“But what disgusts me even more are people who have no imagination. The kind T. S. Eliot calls hollow men. People who fill up that lack of imagination with heartless bits of straw, not even aware of what they’re doing. Callous people who throw a lot of empty words at you, trying to force you to do what you don’t want to.”

He lived in a world circumscribed by a very limited vocabulary.

“Having an object that symbolizes freedom might make a person happier than actually getting the freedom it represents.”

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”