They Exist at Every Stage

When I was nine or ten years old I remember telling my friend how I would only start dating girls in college. The reasoning that backed this up was that if you made it to college then you were smart and if you were smart you would be worth my time. A kids wild imagination huh? I guess I was under the impression that each higher stage of education would only include the next tier of smartest people. Thankfully it didn’t take long to change my mind.

And so why was I reminded of this so many years later? Because I went to the bathroom and someone took a piss that completely missed the mark. Piss everywhere. On the walls, on the floor and I think I saw droplets on the ceiling. You would think that an engineering firm wouldn’t have these kind of incidents happening. They do though. Someone in this office pissed with his eyes closed and probably laughed while doing it. Or maybe he suddenly had an attack, who knows. Heck, maybe the janitor himself did it to make his day more exciting.

This makes me wonder about the people I work with. Some people might look serious, others smart, but they might be delinquents when they are given a moment of privacy. I personally thought this was quite funny for some reason. It also puts a human face on all of us in the organization here. We often look at someone from one angle. That someone might be rigid and objective in his work, but he could very well have an artistic and freewheeling side when he’s off. That’s why it might be worth looking at someone beyond the current role he’s in. For some reason it fills me with a bit of compassion for all the people I interact with on a daily basis. It can be difficult to get beyond first impressions, but the rewards of giving people a chance and to see under a different light is worth it.

Where does discomfort come from?

This has been a subject of great interest to me. Simply because, like many of us, I was bummed out when I didn’t listen to my inner voice and instead chose the easy way just to get by. It doesn’t feel bad as I get more aware of my choices and often I tell myself that every fault gives me two opportunities. One, it’s an opportunity to react in a way that gets me out of a state of fixation of an event. Secondly, it is a valuable lesson so as to mitigate a similar experience in the future.

That being said, the feeling is still there. Increased heart rate, light stress or repeated projections of thoughts in my mind, just a vicious mental state. It can be a troublesome topic though. Trying to understand discomfort is fine, but it easily places you in a position of seeking to understand as a desire for avoiding the pain. And as we have heard before, desire is the root cause of pain according to Buddha. We have to start from some point though! Zen Buddhists said that all students begin in a state of mental sickness(1). So it’s not a bad place to start in if we accept to see ourselves as being in a bind. The bind doesn’t have to be looked as an invalidating concept. To me, it procures me with a sense of freedom and lightness. I can let go and let it be.

We can also remember that duality persists, without faults, could we ever understand what success is? Why not try to see these two faces as a whole?

Food for thought. There’s a whole lot more to say about this subject, but since I like to emphasize practical application I would like you to try and stay aware when a situation feels like it’s going too fast and doesn’t give you enough time to properly think about what your gut feeling says.

(1) Soul of the Samurai translated by Thomas Clearly : Takuan Sōhō mentions this in the chapter Pearless Sword.

Consuming Quotes Like There’s no Tomorrow

I try to read a quote or two every day. There’s no need for expectations, but usually quotes are pointers to greater ideas or truths about life. I’ve been doing this for a few months and I have become a living quote dispenser. There’s an answer to every situation. It’s fun and it is a great way to stir up a conversation when you are with someone and inspiration is nowhere to be found. People who know me often say they have no idea where the hell I get all this stuff from. The fact is, it isn’t made up. I just enjoy reading and spend a few hours every week doing so. Reading quotes along with books procures me that extra peak that mysteriously creeps up on me during random conversations.

Sometimes you read a quote that really hits home and decide to read up on the author. Then you decide to get a book or two that he wrote. Bam! You end up expanding your horizons without even trying. For example, take a look at the following quote : “Rejection breeds obsession.” — Robert Evans. I had no clue who Robert Evans was. Turns out he was the reason Love Story and The Godfather ever came to be. I ended up reading his auto-biography, “The Kid Stays in the Picture”. It was a fascinating read and taught me a lot about the movie filming business. It was better than Christmas Eve. By the way, this is also a great way to build up a list of books to read if you don’t have a list already.

Quotes help you when you are in a bind. Especially when you feel doubt about a situation. A book I own in my office is Bruce Lee’s Striking Thoughts. I open a random page and read one or two paragraphs. Usually I either end up laughing at myself and the situation I am in or find something that helps me understand the situation.

Placing Effort in the Right Places

A few years ago I was routinely bored at school and in general; I just wanted to be involved, to be more busy, to feel needed by my peers.

Well, this week was intensely busy. And it has been like that for about a year now. Actually, there has been so much change in my life that I can’t even relate to who I was in the past. I can’t recognize or mentally relate to who that person was.

Has my life gotten better? Yes, but it isn’t thanks to being busy. It’s great to have energy and consistency, but it’s absolutely useless if it burns you out by making you work the wrong way and by saying yes to every opportunity. It might work at the beginning, but eventually you spread yourself thin and that’s when overworking yourself leads to frequent withdrawals and personal exhaustion. So here’s something I came up with to review my actions on a moment-to-moment basis with a case-study.

Last Christmas I helped this landlord clean a brick wall with wire brush. I was focused on each individual brick. As I went along, I stepped back to look at the wall in it’s entirety. I would also think about how I used the brush, how much pressure I needed to put and what was doable in 2 hours. Heck, I even asked myself why I was doing it in the first place.

It is all of these components that make for an effective job. Let’s see why by analysing the previous brick-cleaning story :

  1. Asking why? Bruce Lee used to say that there were two ways of progressing, by asking why and how. It makes a whole lot of sense. Ideally you would like to take this step first, otherwise there’s no real incentive or you might very well be on the losing side of a deal. When you are doing a task, you want it to be win-win for both parties. The only exception is a compromise, which can happen sometimes depending on circumstances.
  2. Cleaning up-close. Doing it up-close is all about the details. It’s also rewarding to complete micro-goals.
  3. Stepping back and looking at the whole.You may do this as often as you need to. It procures you a sense of understanding and let’s you check to see if the job is going well or you need to make adjustments. If you have previous experience it is a good time to look at history to make improvements if required.
  4. Use the right tool. I worked in a restaurant during my late teens. I remember the cook saying : “If you’re given the tools to get a job done better, then use them”. If you don’t have the right tools; find them.
  5. Using the right technique. Good tools are pointless if you don’t know how to use them. I was working at a farm yesterday and my friend told me that most of the inexperienced people handle the tools wrong and end up getting lower-back pain. When you use a tool, make sure you are using it correctly. Otherwise take the time to understand how it’s used.
  6. Take breaks. Remember to take breaks. There’s no need to explain why, just do it. Sometimes, it’s better to call it a day and give yourself some time to re-evaluate your methodologies after a good rest.
  7. It’s all good if you screw up. Don’t be too hard on yourself, every problem hides a valid lesson, if you think something went wrong, then you probably omitted one of the previous steps.

And there you go, this can be applied to something basic like washing the dishes, learning a skateboard trick or to succeed in completing more involved projects.