Measuring Our Greatness

We never know how good we are. Hear me out.

I subscribed myself to ToastMasters International at a local club in my neighborhood. I just had this desire to tear it up in public speaking. I wanted to get to a place, talk the talk, walk the walk, own it like there’s no tomorrow!

I don’t have social anxiety nor depression, I get a measurable amount of stress in front of big crowds, but nothing unnatural if we consider the number of times I performed publicly(too few). I would like to think that I am above average in public speaking. Personal conclusions? I should be handling myself real well here!

And so here I am, attending a meeting, doing my speeches feeling confident. Then we get our general evaluations. I get eliminated because my speech was under two minutes. I also get told I will need a mentor because I could really use it some pointers. I also realize that I am surrounded by people who have been practicing public speaking for months or years.

At that point it hits me, I am a raw unrefined jewel. I am light-years away from being a competent and trained spokesperson. And here I thought I had good speaking skills. So this is my point. I never compared my skills with experienced individuals. Sure, I saw or have been to job meetings where I could sense something unexplainable coming up from whoever was leading the meeting, but those were too few and wide to really get a sense of what my level was. It’s only when I got into an area of high competence that I realized that there was a lot of room to grow.

The moment we think were good, it’s over. So let’s stay sharp and on guard, let’s try not to slip into a comfort zone thinking were hot stuff, because that is precisely when we will dull our edge and stop progressing.

Being the Magnet

Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

The idea is pretty simple, if you want cool people to hang around you, you must give them a reason to do so. If you are a wall painting artist you naturally attract all sorts of creative people and also anyone who is amazed by such artistic endeavors.

In the same way, if you are involved at work, at clubs, have a hobby, you increase your exposure to life and people. IF there is one decent cure for illnesses such as depression and apathy, it is involvement. Through involvement we develop a sense of community, we gain a meaning, we give our life a purpose. Without resisting it, we eventually find ourselves waking up early on the weekends because we look forward to our day. And so the problem of waking up in the morning has solved itself. Our worries are gone because we deal with people who like us and we like them back. We are never bored. Isn’t that great?

So be interesting, so we can be interested. I will repeat that, be interesting and we will be interested! I tested this theory last month and I always had something to share. The life of a party is the average of each individual’s life. I wasn’t trying to get attention, people asked me what I was up to since we last met and I would simply put the facts in verbal form. I also sleep like a log. Because the days are full of events and interesting happenings.

Being an introvert is no excuse either. I saw book clubs composed of 4 or 5 members. I’ve done an arts class last winter and I hadn’t even spoken a single word. Everyone was concentrated on their art. There’s night classes too. The opportunities are limitless.

One final note though, I don’t show a desire to be interesting. To be honest, I prefer my own company. I like solitude, I love reading and drinking tea on my own or at a coffee shop. I’m okay either way. So make sure that if you do choose to involve yourself, try to find things that actually interest you. I made the mistake two years ago to pick up some dance classes for the wrong reasons and it was an experience filled with lamentations. It wasn’t a waste of time and I had heaps of fun, but I eventually started faking my attitude and that just doesn’t work in the long term.

Owe it to Myself

There’s a feeling that is hard to describe. It happens when you avoid your potential. When you know what makes you feel good and powerful and you avoid it. We could think that it is a defense mechanism for survival, but if it was we wouldn’t be making the same mistakes over and over again in a vicious cycle.

This week I took it upon myself to make a few changes. Life is good, but there’s a disturbing quote that’s been springing up in my head for a few days now :

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

And unfortunately, the people I hang out with do not suit my lifestyle. I’m blunt, but it’s better than being insincere. Too much drinking and outings, too much talk about doing without the doing part, too much worry and fear and the list goes on and on. It is absolute selfishness to put friends down based on their decisions. We all have area’s where we shine, but some of us decide to display it quite sparingly for who knows what reason. I want to see my friends in terms of their potential, but if I am the one acting and moving towards new stages I think it’s reasonable to find that those who stagnate should be left aside until they decide to act(if they want to).

So unto the changes. I slowly started declining invitations that led me nowhere in favor of new activities. I went to a toastmasters reunion, I saw a conference on electronic wearables, I went to the space observatory and I will go to a display of this years most beautiful pictures according to some magazine. I saw new stuff, I learned new things and started feeling excited for the first time in quite a while. Most visits were done solo, but I approached new people like it was my last day on earth and had conversations with a handful of individuals with different stories and backgrounds.

I owe it to myself.

Depression

It feels like no matter where you look, there’s talk about depression and social anxiety disorder. I looked up the words use of the last two centuries and it seems to be in a steady incline :

Where do we go from here? Well, I remember what Stephen Covey once said in one of his instructional DVD’s :

You SEE what you SEEK.

I thought about this idea for a long, long time. Why is this idea important? Because if you are already depressed or suffer from social anxiety, you are also prone to see it everywhere. A similar phenomenon happens when you purchase a new car and suddenly notice your car brand in traffic among other cars. All of a sudden this concept has been brought unto your locus of attention! So you are in deep waters because it’s a vicious cycle, you are depressed, you think about depression and whenever you watch TV or see anything you somehow manage to think about it.

Now we don’t need to despair. The reverse is also true, if you love, then you can also end up seeing it everywhere. It’s a good feeling to have, most of us had it unconsciously during the initial weeks of our first relationship.

Here’s the thing though, they are both the edges of a horizontally delimited line. When you push too hard you hurt yourself, when you don’t push at all, you end up frustrated. Can we aim for the middle instead? And is this middle satisfactory? I don’t know.

One thing is clear though, when it feels like our brain is in a fog, when we can’t keep attention and when we feel numb about our environment; we are alienated. This feeling of alienation is troublesome. It’s a feeling of isolation, of powerlessness and an absence to the immediate. Be weary of these signs, the sooner you notice this state of being you are in, the quicker you can take appropriate action. Making the assessment is half the battle. Take it in as a sign that there needs to be change in your life. That you have been choosing the path of least resistance too often, or that your current environment is fostering apathy.

Between Selfishness and Altruism

I was talking to a buddy of mine today about selfishness and altruism. Were kind of convinced that being altruistic makes no sense if you feel miserable.

So where do we start? If there’s one thing that I remember from all of the recordings I have listened from Alan Watts archives is that an effective way of figuring out the sense of words is through etymology. So let’s have a go at it.

Selfishness is pretty simple, it is a combination of self and ish. A worthy synonym is self-seeking. We can conclude that selfishness is to be concerned of our ‘self’.

Altruism is a bit more difficult, it retains it’s root in Latin and it’s meaning comes from a French word. This word being ‘autre’ which means ‘other’. It can be helpful to think of it as the opposite of egoism(which, by the way, is another synonym for selfishness).

Alright, now that we know what both of these words mean we can look at our initial statement. Let us repeat that statement; we said that it made little sense to put altruism before selfishness. Our reasoning is pretty simple. We think that you cannot care for others if you cannot care for yourself. For example, what good will an unhappy doctor do to his patients? Can he really put their well-being before his? Maybe, in some circumstances, but they would be exceptional. If he’s on the verge of dying then it makes sense that he might try to muster his remaining strength and help his patients.

We talked about this for a while longer. Overall we think that selfishness is given a bad name. Probably because it provides a sense of neglect towards the needs of other human beings. So what? To us, selfishness represents the act of providing water to our inner-plant. A good bit of selfishness will oil ones engine smooth. Then, when the engines running smoothly it can start helping other systems. There’s a good reason they say you should put your oxygen mask before helping your neighbors in the incidence of a technical issue on any given flight.

This applies to entrepreneurship as well, to express a desire, to want something for yourself, that is perfectly adequate and we believe it is a solid first step towards eventually bringing value to something that is bigger than ourselves.