It is always important to remind ourselves of those things that are truly important in life. It also helps us to prioritise our daily life, our decisions every day and aim for what will add real value to us and others. So, here they are…
“Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.”
“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”
“But excess in any sphere is reprehensible.”
“As far as I am concerned, I know that I have lost not wealth but distractions. The body’s needs are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment; if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves to serve our vices, not our needs.”
“Life is long, if you know how to use it.”
“All life is a servitude.”
In summary, there are Five Things to Consider as we start the new year:
1 – What should my focus be every day this year?
2- What should I eliminate from my life?
3 – Stop procrastinating, show up and get on with it!
4 – Work hard and smart in the present, seize the moment, and the future will look after itself.
5 – Define what is ENOUGH and live by it, one can find meaning and happiness there.
Have you all a very peaceful, blessed and successful 2020!
I do not want to sound ‘Grinchy’ about Christmas but I must be honest; I do struggle with the whole polite ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting that goes around this time of the year.
If an alien landed on Earth on December 25th and was greeted by “Merry Christmas Visitor”; what would she/he think about it? Let’s say our dear visitor friend would ‘Google it!’ from her/his spaceship, the results would be thoroughly confusing. What on Earth is Christmas? Why having a ‘Merry One’ matters so much?
I often wonder what people really mean by ‘Have a Merry Christmas? What shall I reply to it? Should a be polite or dismissive? When asked whether I like to celebrate Christmas, I normally reply with a Jordan Peterson type of reply – ‘It depends on what you mean by Christmas’.
Of course, people do not want to hear that, and they are not prepared to engage in a debate there and then. There is no time to think about such trivialities. So, just say – Yes, sure, Merry Christmas to you too! – and move along. Why bother!?
I recently realised that the longer I live, the older I get, the more I start looking like Diogenes, the ‘controversial philosopher’, not that I consider myself one. I just have to say something cynical or provoking. For my own regret, I can’t resist. Merry Christmas might mean an awful lot or nothing at all to you depending on what you do with it and how you deal with it. It is not about beliefs as much as it is behavioural or traditions. Some traditions are worth keeping, some others we must challenge, change or leave them altogether.
Does Christmas mean the birth of Christ (surely not in historic terms)? Santa (that’s very good news for Coca-cola)? Consumerism (been there, done that!)? Or, perhaps, having a break from work and not seeing your boss’ raging grumpy face for 10 days or so (that’s fantastic news right)? Whatever your reply might be, you would always give a polite one right?
I have friends from all cultural and religious backgrounds. I myself was brought up within a Christian-Judeo tradition. Most of them, including Sikhs and Muslims, like the Christmas time, for them, it is a time for getting together, eating, celebrating, being with their family. We all like to exchange presents, sing, play and dance, be happy, to be merry! What is wrong with that after all? We can all say yes to such a nice time together no matter which religion or phylosophy we subscribe to.
But there is an invisible Christmas, the one of the homeless, the destitute, the employee who got laid-off and now are contemplating suicide, the daughters whose mom is dying in the hospital, the hundred of thousands living below the poverty line, the couple who is splitting over unpaid bills, the working man who can barely afford the food, the single mom who is using the last few pounds on her account to buy gifts to their children, you can fill your own here. Would they also have a Merry Christmas? Is that possible?
For me the preferred one would be to disappear and get into my own thoughts, to read, reflect and contemplate about the year that has gone. I do not subscribe to any tradition neither like the glittering meetings and parties.
I like to think, meditate about my decisions in the past year the results achieved looking into the year ahead for new opportunities and possibilities. A time to seek wisdom for self-improvement. That would be my preferred ‘Merry Christmas’ but in reality most of this time is take up by family and friends still expecting you to show up, or to play your part. The Management of expectations comes between them and a real self ‘Merry Christmas’.
“Ask yourself at every moment. Is this really necessary?
Merry for me is ‘simple’, quiet and reflective. I time to see the world, its needs and find ways to play my part to improve it. Being grateful for the life I have whlist questioning what can be improved? Above all it about escaping from overindulging marketing and consumerism appeals with the promises of happier moments once we have bought the new set-of-something we do not really need.
What does ‘Merry Christmas’ mean to you? Would you be able to have one this year?
The odds for you to be alive right now is practically zero according to do Dr Ali Binazir. Let’s start with the odds of your dad meeting your mum (1 in 20,000). Then multiply that by the chances of them staying together long enough to have you (1 in 2,000). If you keep going along those lines you will eventually get to the following probability of you existing 1 in 102,685,000.
Based on this perspective, the reality of our lives and the narrative we can create become unlimited and powerful. We are a freaking miracle of nature!
If you only looked at the probability of the right sperm meeting the right eggs in isolation to any other variables that would be one inf 400 quadrillion.
Start living today with that perspective, make decision and choices based on the fact that you are a freaking odd miracle, you are here to change things, to leave a mark, as Jobs said, a dent in the universe. You life is not a mistake it is a celebration, a joy no matter the circumstances that brought you here.
“A miracle is an event so unlikely as to be almost impossible. By that definition, I’ve just shown that you are a miracle… Now go forth and feel and act like the miracle that you are.”
You should never never ask the question again. Why you? Because you are unique, an effing miracle, there is only one YOU. For Dr Binazir the odds of you being alive are zero. Still, you are here. Stop b$#@ing about and get on with your life, do epic s#&t.
Dr Binazir explained the odds with the following example:
“Imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there is exactly one turtle in all of these oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water — in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.”
There’s angst that rises from within, a silent cry. We reach out to our own identities in a busy, loud world that forces us to have, to own, to go, to do, force a smile, fake happiness. It wants our constant unswerving attention; it wants to master us, keeping us distracted, discouraging us from stopping, thinking, reflecting and discovering out who we are. That can only be found reaching within.
We exchange peace and solitude for constant limelight, the social media spotlight. That is killing us; our species is living a severe existential crisis. For most, that angst is kept silence within while striving to ‘get by with a smile.’
When we forget the simple we neglect the essential; we become blind to what is truly beautiful in this world.
Too much social yet not much living. Too much attention-grabbing effort very little delivering value affecting the lives of people in a meaningful way. The numbers battle, we all want a piece of the action, a dive in the money stack, a ride in the Lamborghini, a nightstand with the blonde of the hunk with six-pack with a bright smile.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have written an amazing book on slowing down and reducing your living so you can live a more fulfilled life – Minimalism: Essential Essays. The essence is to look inside of you and ask the question how much do I really need to be happy?
“Happiness, as far as we are concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life, a life that is filled with passion and freedom, a life in which we can grow as individuals and contribute to other people in meaningful ways. Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff. This may not sound sexy or marketable or sellable, but it’s the cold truth. Humans are happy if we are growing as individuals and if we are contributing beyond ourselves. Without growth, and without a deliberate effort to help others, we are just slaves to cultural expectations, ensnared by the trappings of money and power and status and perceived success.” ― Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Essential Essays
In Walden, transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau encourages us to pursuit nobility in living a simple life surrounded by nature. He is on a journey towards natures and his own nature. In 2015, I decided to start this journey, the one I’m still on and have not to regretted an inch. When you stop living under the pressure of others, society, family and friends you can finally stop and breathe.
Fact is we have never had so much ‘social’ online time and never felt so much isolated and lonely. We have traded living for existing. What should we do then?
STOP – TURN AROUND – TAKE A BREATH – SMILE INSIDE – BE THANKFUL – JUST BE
In Thoreau’s case, The Minimalists guys and even myself we discovered that going back to nature as well as going back to one’s nature was the key to leave a life of social conformity and embrace a life of true self-reliance and self-actualisation.
The Latin quote popularised by Dick’s book is one I particularly have close to my heart and thoughts every day. We never know what is out there waiting for us. Our freedom can be taken away, out lifestyle, our loved ones and even our own life. A million things can obliterate our plans and shattered our dreams. Even if some may find reasons to be boastful we must understand that we all have the sword of Damocles dangling over our heads. Whatever you think you have can be taken away.
In one of the oldest written poems known to us, ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ is written that “Man is snapped off like a reed in the canebrake! The comely young man, the pretty young woman— All too soon in their prime Death abducts them!”
The Stoics also had that at the heart of their philosophical thinking…
“Keep death and exile before your eyes each day, along with everything that seems terrible—by doing so, you’ll never have a base thought nor will you have excessive desire.” —EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 21
“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever. What’s fated hangs over you. As long as you live and while you can, become good now.” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.17
In conclusion, to do good and to be good are the only virtues that matter. We must live and celebrate the now, our present. Many of us keep postponing happiness as if that will happen one day in the future when everything will somehow work out. Gratitude today is key to happiness. Being thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives.
In the final scene of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, the main character Prospero says “And thence retire me to my Milan, where / Every third thought shall be my grave.” It evokes and acknowledges death as a possibility and imminent threat. However, reflecting on our mortality should not leave us in dread, it should rather have the opposite effect. To die while you are alive is the best way to purposely live after all nobody can kill and nothing can affect a dead being. That gives us clarity and motivates us to live a full fearless and purpose-driven life.
Most of us are so busy with the everyday life pursuits that we never stop to think or ask ourselves: “Why am I doing all this?”
That set me off for the rest of my Sunday morning. I normally use my Sunday morning to work on myself, study some area of science, social science and philosophy, learn something new and write about that so I can apply and change.
Today that got me going… Interestingly I had a request for a new LinkedIn connection asking me to add him and also asking to know what was the impact of my work in my current organisation. I do not have much time to this sort of requests, they normally come with an introduction and offer of service (attention management is key here) but today I was in the mood to explore that!
What is my contribution to the world? The institution I work for is nothing but one of the many vehicles I can express myself, add to others and play a part in building a better environment we all want to live. My business, my network of family and friends, my charity work, etc…
I was then taken back in time to a film I watched many years ago and one of my favourite poems of all…
O Me! O Life!
BY WALT WHITMANOh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish, Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d, Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me, Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined, The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Source: Leaves of Grass (1892)
in my view…
The power of identity and purpose should guide any life pursuit, find your verse, find yourself!
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Someone once said that you cannot change anything or any problem in your life with the same mindset that has created it. Many people spend their lives focusing on what they don’t have to sort out the problem they created by negative thoughts and reactions to external situations. They will never be able to experience true freedom that way.
The only way to see changes in the present and move towards a better future and destiny is by nurturing positive thoughts no matter which circumstances one finds oneself in. Thoughts are made of pure raw energy (being negative or positive) and have the power to change our physiology and psyche immediately. It is the only thing we can truly have control over.
After developing good thoughts one should start paying attention in the words one uses. Words have the power to manifest the reality of your thinking, speak sound words and you will be truly whole and happy.
Thirdly: congruency! Acting in line with your thinking and words. Oh, how hard that one is! The worst things anyone can display in their lives are inconsistency and incongruency. Where one acts differently from what one believes and says.
Afterwhile your healthy thinking life, your manifested positive words and your congruent actions will be consolidated as your new habits. Cultivating these new good habits are a powerful way to unlock long-lasting changes in your life but ultimately they should be governed by superior moral and ethical values directing everything you do.
In you keeping with all of them, practising diligently as you go about your business, you will then start paving the way to a great destiny. Try it today!
Revans pioneered action learning as a management discipline and although he had never produced one single definition to the process, he passionately believed it to be the ancient form of acquiring wisdom. For him, there was not one single form (format) to the approach.
Action learning requires a profound and meaningful engagement and commitment to the process of being changed through the learning process which ultimately could not be communicated through a simple formulaic or technique. .
The future of everything we do is directly connected to the future of how we (humans) process (life long in most case) learning added to our ability to communicate wisdom beyond the information gathered, since the pure application of the latter is already dominated by intelligent machines. Needless to say we cannot compete with them in their own game.
Therefore, learning should moves us towards applied wisdom and not simply towards more application of information and knowledge simply.