On Having Mentors

The idea of having a mentor to help us make decent decisions or to have someone we can talk to has been a recurrent theme in the world of entrepreneurship; with good reasons. The idea is nothing new. Young adults in Greek society chose a school of life where admirable figures could readily be found. The idea of shamans or priests resonates with us all as well. It makes sense to have someone we can put our ideas to the test before making them real through action.

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No Anger, no Excitement

I began learning and practicing meditation four years ago. At the time I was emotionally and materially wealthy, but I felt wretched throughout the day. Especially when I was alone in a public setting. It is hard to explain why one feels lonely or sad, or even happy and excited… when one lives whatever thought stream happens to exist at the time without being aware of it. It’s similar to being on a boat that is buffeted by strong currents. Only the experience is heart wrenching if we have no navigational skills. You get pulled in different directions, at nature’s mercy. The reason why I am talking about this, is that four years later my relationship with this thought stream is very different. Let’s go over distinct experiences that I had which seem to have a lot in common.

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On Being the City

I am fond of using plain, physical examples to describe certain aspects of human psychology. The human psyche is fascinating, but also abstract and intangible. Consider yourself as a city. The structures such as the palisades, the castle, the gates and the market are your body. These structures represent the environment that brings life into existence. That is to say, it supports the city dwellers. Which in our metaphor represent our thoughts. The citizens as a collective produce a culture. If the citizens get wasted or enjoy numerous brawls we could say that the community showcases an outside image that is raw and mongrel-like. If, on the other hand, the citizens are avid book readers who believe in freedom of expression we could say that they display an artistic or liberal image.

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Unbacked Optimism

How about I start this article by sharing a quote with you from Bruce Lee’s Striking Thoughts:

Fate without work is death.

After The Secret a book by Rhonda Byrne gained a lot of attention, the belief that what we think will help us become what we want has gained widespread notoriety. In all truth this isn’t a new idea and books like As a Man Thinketh by James Allen were already describing this idea. And in all truth Bruce Lee’s Striking Thoughts affirms this with another statement in another chapter:

Become what you think – What you HABITUALLY THINK largely determines what you will ultimately become.

This is most notably tied to the idea of optimism. Which is often what people think of when they are asked to change their thought patterns. That is a great idea for someone displaying nihilist behavior or plain pessimism, BUT ONLY if that individual is already putting himself out there and getting rejected for his bad demeanor will it be worth something. If you tell the nihilist or the pessimist to “brighten up” whilst he is not acting at all, he might switch camps, but that won’t make him happier. That’s where unbacked optimism does just as much personal harm as being negative and guilt-ridden.  The Tao talks about going beyond pessimism and optimism because ultimately they are two sides of the same coin; they are one. To grow potatoes all conditions must be met. You need to know about the seasons, about when it is optimal to pick them up, about how often to water them, about what kind of dirt and climate they thrive in, otherwise your crops will yield you fuck-all. The experience will certainly be instructive though(if you objectively evaluated what went wrong). Since you put in the work then your attitude and your response to what happened will be a key factor to your next step. Notice how no details are left to chance though. Everything is put to scrutiny. Living through those experiences unfailingly is the only way to guarantee success. Perhaps not physically, but psychologically being certain that we did it all, in other words, spectacular failure, will feel like a gain.

Let’s remember to consolidate our optimism by backing it up with real tangible actions. How often have I heard that holding a gratitude journal is beneficial? How about going a step further and telling someone we know we are grateful to them. And why not even go further and do some volunteering with worst-off citizens to realize our place and bring definite change. I do all these things and I will keep doing so, to the extent of my capacity. Those actions put a practical emphasis on living, my thoughts are backed and ready to break walls.

Principle Oriented Approach

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about a principle-oriented approach. This approach is said to be the fundamental compass that determines our choices to lead an effective life. What I find interesting is his argument as to why we would want to choose such an approach :

One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites. I doubt that anyone would seriously consider unfairness, deceit, baseness, uselessness, mediocrity, or degeneration to be a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success. Although people may argue about how these principles are defined or manifested or achieved, there seems to be an innate consciousness and awareness that they exist.

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