It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an opposing thought and not accept it.
It is the mark of a self-control to not panic when it seems like everything around you is falling apart.
It is the mark of maturity to recognize when an opponent is right despite how much you disagree and dislike him.
In all cases, the sign of being human is to acknowledge your emotions but to not act on them. Rather, taking a slow, measured, and thoughtful response is the best way to handle most situations. There are situations that call for immediate action. A firefight, for example, requires immediate and decisive action. Your enemy is not going to give you time to think and respond before shooting you.
Those situations in life are rare. A competitor may have launched a vicious smear campaign against you. You may think the best action jump in, defend yourself, and then counter. You’d be fighting blind. You need to first take a few moments, understand what is being said, and whether you can ignore it, or whether you need to start legal action.
Your child’s temper tantrum is another example. No doubt, listening to a child whine and cry is aggravating. Responding with anger only makes the situation work. The most effective way is to make sure your child is safe, and then walk away.
This should be our default mode of response to the world. To take stock of what is happening and respond in a measured fashion. Jumping right into the action at a moment’s notice leaves us tired and unable to enjoy ourselves.
Slow down and respond as needed.
If there’s one word in the English language that people fear the most, it’s the word “no”. How many times have you avoided asking someone out on a date for fear of that word? How many times have you avoided asking your manager for raise for fear of that word? How many times have you avoided taking a chance on putting yourself in front of people for fear of that word?
Rejection is hard for us. It reminds us of our failings. It reminds us that the person we see ourselves is not the person others see us as. It hurts us, and we tend to avoid that hurt us.
The only way to deal with rejection is to get rejected. Some people have devised a method where you ask a stranger every day a question to hear the word “no”. In doing that, you not only work on your fear of rejection, but you also get a chance to work on the fear of speaking with a stranger.
That’s not enough, as the opportunities for rejection happen anywhere. A random stranger, at work, at home. What’s important is that in all cases to remind yourself not to respond immediately. Take a deep breath, remind yourself this isn’t personal. Look at your request from that person’s point of view. If you don’t understand the person rejected you ask that person. It may seem painful, but no harm will come to you. In fact, you’ll feel a lot better, since you may have discovered an area that you need to improve on. Or you’ve discovered it’s not worth your time trying to seek this person’s approval. You’ll have peace of mind. You’ve also avoided the blaming the other person for how you feel. That’s a significant step for peace of mind and detachment (more on that in a later post).
In the end, confronting rejection face to face leads to a better situation.
The cornerstone of our lives are the habits we choose to develop, and the virtues we choose to embrace. In both cases, these are choices. The choices we make on a daily basis impact the quality and the quantity of our life.
How many choices do you make a day? How many choices are you aware of? How many times do others make a decision for you? These questions are worth answering, for the simple reason that it’s often the case we arrive at a life-changing choice but are ill-equipped to handle it. Too often, we let our emotions make the decision for us. In some cases, the consequences are dire. We’re at a party, we get “caught up” in the moment and drink too much. On the way home, we get into an accident and end the lives of 3 people.
In some cases, the consequences are not so dire. Making a decision to spend $2 on a cup of coffee is unlikely to have much impact beyond less money and some decent coffee. The key is to know which choices have long ranging consequences and which are trivial. In both cases, the trivial and the consequential, the realization a choice is about to be made is important.
We can’t mull over every decision we make, there’s not enough time. We do need to be aware of the choices we make, regardless of the size, and decide which ones need planning. We also need to know when the emotions caused by a circumstance (like the party) are effect our decision making and adjust. Only a few people have the resources need to make it through life without conscious decision making. The rest of us need to understand and own our decisions.
I can restate yesterday’s statement that attitude is everything can in another fashion. A positive attitude is a meta-virtue, a virtue that enables all other virtues. It’s also a meta-habit. Obtaining and maintaining a positive attitude is something that requires conscious daily effort. Once this habit established, other habits can follow.
It’s an example of the thought cycle. The thoughts we hold drive our beliefs. Our beliefs drive our emotions. Our emotions drive our actions. The result of our actions influences our thoughts.
There’s not a lot of meta virtues and habits. The other meta-habit is daily meditation. This builds patience, temperance, reduces stress, builds creativity, etc.
The other virtue is self-restraint. Notice that like maintaining a positive attitude, self-restraint involves a physical component. Every day, there are opportunities to practice self-restraint or give into excess.
Even further up the chain is our decision-making ability. Self-restraint is a choice, positivity is a choice. Many people automatically make decisions. Even more, let others make decisions for them. Few people take ownership and make mindful decisions. Not every decision needs to have an internal debate. There’s simply not enough time. A better practice is to note when you make a decision and the outcome of that decisions. Did it meet your expectations? What do you think you could have done differently?
How many times have you heard that attitude is everything? How many times have you heard to think positively? How many times have you sloughed that off?
Positive thinking can get a bad rap from many people. The iconic Stuart from SNL, standing in front of a mirror, saying “I’m good enough” is telling. People who wear a thin smile, saying everything is fine while around them, things fall apart.
That is not positive thinking. That’s delusional happiness. Positive thinking involves knowing what things we can control. It involves holding a proactive mindset. It involves having a plan of action. It involves self-control and temperance.
As an example, you may be apprehensive about the upcoming year, given the results of the 2016 US presidential elections. Sitting at home, watching the news and posting to social media is definitely not a positive attitude. Neither is the attitude that everything will turn in your favor. What is a positive attitude is determining what you can do about the situation. You can donate to political organizations. You can get involved in your local community. You can use technology to find like minded people and work to bring about the change you want.
The most important thing you can do is to focus on the things in front of you. Your career, your friends, your family. Focusing on these will have a much more significant impact on your life. The more you focus and strengthen the things in front of you, the greater impact and reach you’ll have.
I once wrote a post about how people need to stop improving yourself. I wrote it for computer programmers. The gist of it was that unless you have a definite goal, “taking action” is pointless. This was on a site that advocates for people to wrote blog posts, attend conferences, and work on side projects besides to working. In other words, it encouraged people to have a second job. I don’t want to dissuade people from doing this, as it can be successful. The point was that unless you have a destination in mind, these activities aren’t as useful as others, like physical activity, meditation, etc.
As strange as it may seem, I see parallels between this viewpoint and people on social media who avoid religious and political posts. Money, religion, and politics are the 3 things we’re never supposed to discuss. That’s because these are emotional topics where people hold strong beliefs and feelings. The 2016 election is where we saw a failing. More registered voters abstained from voting than ones who did. As a result, the current president lost the popular election by 3 million votes.
That’s the danger of avoiding politics and religion. The people who do not avoid these topics have a tendency to get into power, and it never ends well. We all have political and religious beliefs, and we all need to get involved. There are benefits to religion, and there are benefits to politics. There are downsides as well, and the potential for difficult conversations. We need these because we need to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
These topics are important, like building good habits and self-improvement. They should not take over our lives. Like learning to code many languages doesn’t help much, spending time on the politics subreddit, or posting to Facebook won’t help us have a say in the national conversation. Writing technical blogs posts no one reads is about as useful as evangelicals holding signs on the sidewalk at public events.
We need to find ways to actively and purposefully engage in these topics, without letting them overrun our lives.
The “first post” of any blog is usually a short post that talks about the author’s goal with the blog. Or it’s a test post to verify connectivity. My first post was about a book I’m reading, “The Thinking Life”.
It’s a good idea to talk a bit about what this blog is about. More than likely, if you’re reading this, it’s either on LinkedIn or Medium.
My goal with this blog is to post short articles on whatever comes into my head. It’s selfish, one that will not get me many readers, but the idea is to build a writing habit.
The typical recommendations for a blog are to write long form posts on a niche topic. This is a standard content marketing strategy, and it works well. Shorter blogs, like Seth Godin’s blog and Daring Fireball, tend to work well with an established author.
My intent is to get to that point of long form niche articles, but the first step is to build the blogging habit. I’m not sure what the niche will be. There’s more than enough self-help blogs out there. There’s more than enough technical blogs. Some are great, some not so great. At any rate, that decision will come later, after the habit has formed and my own writing has smoothed out.
If you’re wondering about the technology used, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. I use WordPress on Digital Ocean. My theme is whatever the current year’s theme is. My writing tool of choice is Desk. I use a combination of Grammarly and Hemingway to correct obvious grammatical errors. That’s as close to a colophon as you’ll get.
As for me, the author, a simple search will find who I am on LinkedIn. I make no effort to separate out my online and offline identities. Delmania is an internet handle that has grown on me. I’ve used it for a lot of things on the internet.
I’m often told my people in my family that I should eat more kale. The reasons are that it’s a “super food” packed with nutrients.
I’ve also read about the benefits of taking cold showers.
There are 2 problems with these recommendations. I don’t like either the taste or texture of kale. I’ve taken cold showers and I end up cold. (To be fair, there is a short burst of energy).
In contrast to these, on the day I focus on my upper body at the gym, I make myself do Jacobs Ladder. It’s boring.
Why do I make myself go on the ladder, but refuse to eat kale and take cold showers? It’s about knowing when to quit. A big part of daily improvement and refinement is doing activities we’d rather not be doing. These help to build tolerance and patience. Self-improvement is full of recommendations and hints and systems. People swear by them and tell us about all the things we’re missing because we don’t adopt a certain habit, or eat a certain diet.
The problem is that if you spend your time on things you don’t enjoy, you’ll be miserable. The idea of adopting habits to get to a better place is the core of self-improvement. If you’re miserable, that runs counter to this idea. It also increases the chance you’ll give up.
Learning how to say no, learning how to quit something that’s not working is as important as learning to do something you don’t enjoy at first. You need to find something that works. I don’t like kale, but I do like quinoa. I don’t take full cold showers, but I do rinse off with cold water.
Learning to adapt an idea to fit your desires, interests, and lifestyle is a very useful skill. You can continue on the path to a better place while reducing the amount of will power you use to get there. We only have so much will power. We need to protect it.
You make a commitment to waking up 10 minutes earlier to meditate. That’s a small change to your daily routine. One day, your daughter gets sick and causes to stay up half the night. Then, a few days later, a power outage prevents your alarm from going off. A few days later, you drink a little too much and sleep through the alarm. Before you know it, you’ve given up on your commitment.
When talk about building new habits, repetition is a key element. Yet, beyond repetition, there’s a tendency to create a ritual. The same time, the same place, the conditions day in and out. As many who have tried, and failed, know, this doesn’t work. Life is not some perfect circle that always turns the same way. Interruptions, illness, disappointments, poor choices are not exceptions, but expectations.
Repetition is important to building good habits, but so are resilience and adaptability. We need former to keep the commitment despite the setbacks. We need the latter to be able to respond to the daily changes of life. Can’t meditate for 10 minutes in the morning? How about during a break at lunch? Or at night, before going to bed. The goal, after all, is to meditate. The time of the day is not important in the beginning.
It’s like this blog. Many people recommend long form, niche articles. Yet as people like John Gruber, Seth Godin, and Rohan prove in their excellent blogs, there’s also room for shorter articles. The goal here is to write for 10 minutes. I have several niches I’d like to explore. Topics such as machine learning, executive management and leadership, technology. Those are currently beyond what I’m willing to invest.
For now, 10 minutes a day is the building block to a better blog.
A significant point of debate in the 2016 United States presidential election was the loss of various blue collar jobs. One narrative is that globalist economic policies, such as free trade agreements, have caused companies to move these position overseas where labor is cheaper. Another narrative is that these jobs are being replaced by automation. Machines don’t get tired, they have the same level of performance, and they never are rude. They will break down, of course, but then companies can hire someone to fix them.
Automation, like many technological advances, has the power to cause a Luddite reaction. People tend to talk about the limitations of machinery much more than the benefits. Greater automation means a worker can spend his time on more valuable tasks, such as planning and design. At a company I recently worked at, the pitch for automating various networking tasks was that it allows senior networking engineers more time to design and analyze networks as well as train junior engineers.
We must implement automation wisely. More machines mean less need to for workers, so people will be out of a job. What are we do about this?
On one hand, greater financial literacy is needed so people aren’t so reliant on living paycheck to paycheck. That require us to tackle both retirement, health care, and education, since those are most peoples’ biggest expenses.
We need more than financial stability, we also need to rethink what we mean by leisure. We translate the words skole and otium as leisure. Skole forms the basis or the word school. The meaning is clear, the classical Greeks, who’s philosophy and politics formed the bedrock of Western civilization considered leisure a time for a person to be free of obligation and to engage in meaningful activities that build skills and increase.
Less Facebook, more books.