How to not Change

I remember listening to a pod-cast on the Art of Charm about a book called The Charisma Myth written by Olivia Fox Cabane. While the host is asking questions I stopped what I was doing because Olivia said something about not liking humans in general. It startled me a little, but later I understood that this aversion stemmed from popular science that tells you that if you want something, you simply act fake and game the system. She was disheartened by all the people who were willing to use cheap tricks to get their chunk of the cake.

When you fall into that mentality what you are doing is putting a load of “quick fixes” on top of a mental/physical foundation. You can see me coming. If your foundation is weak, you crumble under new added pressure, or those quick fixes become exactly that; quick. They let you down when you most need it, or you don’t understand why something worked a while and then it stopped which in turn made you lose your confidence or your patience.

This is nothing new. In fact, 30 years ago a book called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” exposes “make belief” methods and proposes a change in mindset. What it calls a paradigm shift. It also proposes the use of undeniable principles and focuses on going deep into yourself to nurture permanent change.

Here’s an example of a quick and easy personality tip. It’s called Mayor Walking. All you have to do, is whenever you walk around, you smile and deal with people as if you somehow knew them. This sounds like a great idea. At least it gives you a starting point. And who knows? Maybe you will get lucky and meet a bunch of cool people, get invited to cocktails and parties, maybe score a goal or two. A lot of people dig these suggestions, they are easy to understand and you get down to business fast.

But why do you do it? This tip never asks you why. It tells you what you can get if you apply it. It focuses on results. How can you have any bit of conviction if you barely understand that behaving this way is aligned with your beliefs? So this is where it fails. If you decide to use it, it is like make up, you look good, but then it wears out until all that is left is your true self.

Then there’s also this idea that if you are applying this tip you put yourself in a position where you may not really like what you are at this point in time. Fine. Just consider that the day things go sour you will show your old face again, and since you never gave yourself a chance you will feel resentment.

It’s not always clear, I fell into this mentality when I first started reading books about popular psychology out of sheer curiosity. Until it started working and I had no clue what I was doing or why I was doing it. So give yourself a chance. Stumbling is part of the experience.

Food for thought.

First Impressions

First impressions don’t mean much to me. They are often based on assumptions and past-conditioning. A first impression is useful when you must make a split decision and have no time to consider other options, but coming down with conclusions after scanning a room, a person, an object or any other concept is a guaranteed ticket to learning nothing from them or it.

It might be beyond us, maybe we are wired to make first impressions after millions of years of evolution, it might be in our DNA. Yet, we talk a lot about mindfulness and about nurturing the habit of staring at our thoughts without judging them. Could we potentially have an impression and simply let it pass? We could work towards considering as neither good or bad. It is what it is.

I’m bringing this topic up because a ship captain spent two weeks at our apartment. I was impressed by his stories, his deeds and his attitude towards life. It clicked right away and he became an outstanding figure to me.

Days passed by and then I witnessed his day-to-day behavior. There was lot’s of drinking, procrastinating and sleeping till 1400. He’s on vacation, so maybe he’s just slowing down. That’s what I told myself. Although it didn’t get any better. That life-style naturally led him to complaining about ‘stuff’ all the time. There were also a lot of ideas coming out. He was talking about barely-feasible adventures, changing his mind every other day about what he would do next. Alcohol is a heck of a good way to determine someones nature, how far he goes and if he has perverse inclinations. None of this is bad per say, but were all at different stages in life, sometimes you don’t want to associate yourself with a certain crowd. And that’s in your power.

I remember having similar decisions going around my mind while I was in Indonesia and I chose to take on my own path. I said no to alcohol and went on to trek like I had originally planned, leaving new friends and lot’s of parties aside. It was difficult, but it was the right decision at the time.

So here’s to say, first impressions should be taken for what they are. A quick glimpse that can be added to a folder. Afterwards, we can let cumulative encounters add up to our personal folder until we have enough information to make the right assessment.

30 Books Challenge

I was invited to set a goal on GoodReads. I wasn’t aware they had this feature on their website, but it makes sense. They get you to set a goal and in turn they hope you buy more books from Amazon to achieve it.

I actually dig GR. It has a big community, so most books have been rated enough times that they end up making good recommendations. You also get to track what your reading and what is in your library.

Last year I wasn’t using GR. I did not own a kindle and I enjoyed buying physical books, especially to highlight parts and quickly reference them whenever I wanted a refresher. I had still set a goal up. I called it my underdog year. I would get off the social scene and spend as much time training and reading as I possibly could. I liked that idea.

My initial goal was 50 books. I had never really read books on my own before so I thought this was going to be a good challenge.

With time, I realized that some books were way longer or way more complex than I had anticipated.

In the end, I finished 36 books. On a personal level the year was pretty hard. It can take some time to feel comfortable with solitude and long quiet moments. It’s especially true because, whenever I would meet friends or go to an event I would come back feeling like my comfort with solitude was emancipated almost instantly. It was strange, but I took it, it’s wasn’t the end of the world.

Culturally speaking it was great, I explored many thematics and learned a whole lot about things I ignored. That’s why today I don’t own a TV and barely use the internet. I’m always reading up on something new, I feel like it is a superior investment of my time.

So if you feel like trying, it’s not too late to set a goal for the next six months of 2016.

Honestly Looking

There is this saying that I remember from a book called the four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I will paraphrase it, because I don’t have the book handy :

When you look at the effect of a decision, that is to say the result of an action, look at the result honestly, be honest with yourself, make adjustments if you feel like it needs to be done and try to avoid playing the victim by judging yourself or your circumstances.

I am going over this because, last night was the fifth time I drank and went out to party this week. It was all fun and games, but I never really took those nights out to get out of my comfort zone, instead I ended up spending a lot of money, getting hungover way too often and destroyed my sleeping habits. So it’s time for me to look at the results and make sure that if a new week begins with similar patterns I will try to have the awareness that will help me stick with my game plan instead of choosing the path of least resistance.

I do feel a bit guilty, but I also like to think about bearing all of this cheerfully, with a smile. We make mistakes and we correct them. There is no concept of win that exists without it’s counterpart, loss. So it makes sense to try to think about their relationship instead of being fixed upon one side of the equation.

Moving on.

Being the Tiger

Last night was a sleepless night. I canceled all my plans due to a migraine, but at around 22:00 as I prepared to lay in bed the unexpected happened. I got a text from someone I consider to be my mentor with an invitation to a private party at a secret location.

I wasn’t in my greatest shape, but it felt like destiny. I spontaneously agreed to meet my fellow friend and before I knew it I was ready to hit it off yet again. If I am going out I will go out 100%. I don’t go to parties or venues wishing I’d stay home all night, that’s just a waste of everybody’s time and especially your own.

So we drank until eight in the morning. We were roughing it all the way. Leaving no stones unturned. At some point I became a human ladder which was used by a girl in heels to pop a balloon that was stuck in the ceiling. Don’t try to understand, it just happened.

This “own it” attitude is what I consider to be a quintessential human trait. It’s a combination of many features : courage, the ability to respond for yourself, a silent confidence and the acceptance of what is. By that last one I mean you surrender yourself to the present moment and die to the past and the future. You are your best bet at all times if you remain razor sharp in the fleeting instant.

Obviously I eventually became intoxicated, so I tarnished this human quality we can all put forward, but it happened and I will make up for it in the coming days with rigorous training and studying. I’m totally satisfied with how most things went and wouldn’t have changed a thing from last night.

Were tigers, if we dare to.