The seeds of doubt were planted at a young age. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it started in childhood. I was lead to believe I wasn’t capable, that I would struggle in this life. In particular, concerns surrounded my abilities in English. At first, my parents worried that I had a … Read more Why I Write
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman (Source: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time) I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY … Read more The Only Thing The World Needs From You
The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. … Read more Why Everything Scares You To Death
That’s the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you’re an ass. It’s wonderful. When people tell me, “You’re wrong.” I say, “What can you expect of an ass?” S.J. Anthony de mello – SOURCE: AWARENESS “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent … Read more The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation
“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.” – Herbert Douglass – SourCE:The Cost Of Freedom True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations … Read more Why Freedom Demands Responsibility
Aviator, Blogger & Existential Philosopher. I combine lessons in aviation with modern psychology to help you command life: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
When Micheal Jordan returned from the NBA after an extended hiatus his publicity manager was unsure how they should announce the news. So, he wrote a number of press releases for Micheal to choose from.
But Jordan didn’t like any of them. He said, “I’ll do it myself.” before picking up a pen and writing down the following message,
That was it. The entire press release consisted of just those two words. Yet, everyone who was anyone knew exactly who and what.
Of course, when you’re a legend like MJ you don’t need to say very much. In many respects, the less you say the better. You should let your actions do the talking.
Unfortunately most of us aren’t legends. Our actions usually don’t do the talking. That’s why we write!
As much as I like to think of myself as the Micheal Jordan of the blogging world, I feel my press realise needs to be a wee bit longer. Mainly because my actions haven’t been talking at all.
Honestly, the last couple of months have been difficult for me. It’s felt like I’ve been stuck in the past. Desperately wishing to catch up with my family – my present – who had been waiting for me in Singapore while I saw out the remaining months of my contract in Hong Kong.
Aside from failing to process some very difficult emotions, I’ve had a million and one things to do. I’m sure you can appreciate what a massive undertaking moving to a new country is.
For all of the above my motivation to write has gone begging. Instead, my muse has spent the last several weeks eating his emotions. I hesitate to point out he’s on a bit of weight..
This morning is the first time in a long time that I’ve sat down to really write and reflect. I quickly released how much I missed it. I released just how much I needed it. Even if my muse did struggle to get up from the couch!
I forget that writing helps me process my emotions. When I lose the motivation it may well be because I’m avoiding them. At any rate, I haven’t been.
All things not said and not done, all I have are excuses. It comes back to actions versus words. There’s nothing wrong with having words, but they must align with action. That’s what makes them true.
As a writer, well, that means creating some words.
I feel particularly guilty because I know how hard the rest of the team here at the new and vastly improved Wise and Shine have been working in my absence.
Let me take this opportunity to say how extremely grateful I am to all of you for your efforts. Your actions do speak louder than words. They haven’t gone unnoticed.
The good news is, I’m starting to feel like the seas are calming. Like I’ve finally caught up with my present self.
I actually moved to Singapore last week. I managed to negotiate leaving a week early so I could arrive in time for my eldest son’s 4 year birthday. He’d been asking where daddy is for several weeks.
So, when I walked through the front door with suitcases in hand, his eyes lit up. He shouted “Daddy!’ before running across the living room and giving me a huge hug. As I struggle to hold back the tears, I said nothing.
My emotions come at me in waves. Often I’m strong enough to withstand them – to hold the ship steady – but every now and then they catch me with my shields down. I’m swept away.
That happened the other day when the movers came in to pack everything up. Seeing my whole life packed into boxes. That was difficult.
But the hardest moment came after they had gone. When I was left all alone in an empty apartment, the place we’d called home for the past four years.
And I could see it all at once. I could see the first time we brought my eldest son home from the hospital. I could picture my youngest taking his first steps across the living room floor. All the heart to hearts with my wife, sat exhausted on the sofa after a long day.
The ghosts of my past were everywhere to be seen.
Yet, my present had already packed up and left. Waiting for me in Singapore while I see out the remaining 3 months of my contract here in Hong Kong.
It was then that the sheer enormity of the decision we’d made hit me. It was then that the real ghosts of my past started screaming. Telling me I’ve made a huge mistake, that I don’t what I’m doing, that I’m weak for not having put up with everything.
Here we go again, I thought. The voices in my head that never let up. The voices that have haunted me for so long.
Part of me worried that maybe, underneath it all – behind the politics, the toxic work culture, the endless days of quarantine – the real reason for leaving is a futile attempt to try and outrun these ghosts. Hoping I would somehow be able to leave them behind when I leave myself.
For the longest time I thought the voices telling me to leave were those ghosts. So, I figured the path to salvation was staying put. I figured I had to stay the course.
But I know that’s not true. I know it was my ghosts that kept me frozen in fear for so long.
The funny thing is, now that the decision is made, it seems, in some strange sense, the louder they scream the surer I am. Yet, they still scream, they still kick.
Thankfully I know my ghosts well. l know, more often than not, they appear in a desperate attempt to mask some deeper pain beneath the surface. I also know that trying to outrun them is a mistake.
So, I believe, a better question isn’t how to stop your ghosts from appearing, but how to see through them when they do. To do that, you have to hold them in your heart.
To see through the ghosts of your past you have to accept them as they are.
After torturing myself for a while that day I sat down in middle of that empty apartment and took some time to let my ghosts be. Slowly but surely the voices started to quell.
Slowly but surely the real pain my ghosts were masking began to surface: Grief.
Of course, the only way to process grief is to let your shields downs. The only way to process grief is to let your emotions sweep you away. So, that’s what I did.
I want to finish this series of posts on personality I’ve put together over the past couple of months by giving you an analogy.
To first recap, there are five major personality traits: extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness.
Wherever you lie on the spectrum of each trait – whatever the circumstances that shaped you – this is the hand you’ve been dealt in this game we call life.
If you’re lucky you may have a couple of aces up your sleeve. Maybe, if you’re not so fortunate, you have a couple of 2’s and 3’s to contend with.
Maybe, just maybe, you have a royal flush!
However lucky you may or may not be, what matters is less the hand you’ve been dealt but how well you play it.
So I want you to take a long objective look at that hand and think about two things. The first is what game you should be playing. What game is your personality hand best suited to?
A royal flush may be helpful in a poker game, but different games suit different hands. You might not want a royal flush.
If you’re high in extraversion you’ll feel energised working with lots of people. However, if you’re highly introverted it will exhaust you. You’ll be far better off working alone or with a small group of people.
If you’re high in agreeableness you’ll want to work for people – you’ll gain a huge amount from looking after others. If you’re low in agreeableness you’ll want to channel that competitive nature.
If you’re highly open you’ll be well suited to entrepreneurship or creative endeavours. If you’re high in conscientiousness you’ll be well suited to managerial or administrative positions.
Wherever your strengths lie, you want to think long and hard about your intrinsic motivations. If your personality hand doesn’t match your job you will be miserable – if not unsuccessful.
This applies to life partners as well.
Except for those who are highly neurotic, you want someone with a similar temperament. Opposites may attract but they make for terrible life partners. Major personality differences are flash points in any relationship.
But life isn’t perfect. Finding a job or life partner that matches your hand perfectly is impossible. There will inevitably be differences. There will be parts of your nature that you will have to shift to make things work.
So the second thing I want you to do is to take a long hard look at the aspects of your personality that are holding you back. What cards in your hand need strengthening?
For someone high in agreeableness the danger is an inability to stand up for oneself and say no. Learning to be more assertive is an excellent way to combat this.
Those low in agreeableness would do well to work on their listening skills. Someone who is highly introverted should consciously work on their social skills.
Those high in neuroticism should think about the things they are avoiding that they ought to be doing, then practise facing them.
If you’re low in conscientiousness it’s worth making a detailed plan and then breaking it down. If you’re low in openness you should make reading and writing a habit.
If you’re extremely high in openness, think about the most essential things in your life and then ruthlessly commit to them.
Wherever you weakness lie, what you want to do is push yourself outside of your personality comfort zone. That’s how you build character.
The strange paradox here is that by practising what you aren’t, you become more comfortable with who you are.
This is because your identity is self-regulating. Much like the thermostat on you’re air conditioner.
To change the setting of your personality thermostat you have to challenge your identity. The primary benefit comes not from shifting the setting but from expanding the zone – the temperature range – around your innate setting.
What you’re doing is broadening your personality by breaking down the limiting parts of yourself, the narrative about who you are (or aren’t) that keeps you tightly bound within a narrow temperature range.
By expanding the limits of that temperature range the real you has the space to breathe and shine through. Because you know you can be who you need to be when the occasion calls for it.
That’s the real trick. When you can change the cards in your hand to suit the game at play, there’s no telling what you can achieve.
I believe it’s the difference between winning and losing in this game we call life.
Thank you for taking the time to read my series on personality. You can find a link to the other posts below. At some point I’ll attempt to package everything into a small ebook to give away. For now, I wouldn’t mind some feedback if you have any? Did you enjoy this series on personality? Would you like me to do more of the same? Let us know in the comments below.
For fear of being lynched by the social constructionists, my feeling is biology is the overwhelming factor here.
Pregnancy has, especially historically, placed women in a far more vulnerable position. Even after childbirth, an infant didn’t have access to things like formula. The baby was firmly tied to the mother.
If you hadn’t noticed, infants are quite disagreeable little bastards. What’s particularly annoying is they have every right to be. They are completely and hopelessly dependant.
As a parent you must sacrifice yourself completely.
In the modern age the man can take on that role more and more, but as a tribal hunter-gatherer there really was only one woman for the job.
But someone had to be the one to go and hunt for dinner. Someone had to to go out and negotiate on behalf of the tribe.
Of course, the more agreeable you are the more friends you’re likely to have, the more likely those friends will repay your kindness in turn.
In this sense compassion can be thought of as a negotiating strategy. I’ll share my spoils today so that you’ll share yours tomorrow. That way none of us have to go hungry.
The benefits here are obvious.
So a far more interesting question is to ask whether you can be too compassionate or too polite? Often it depends towards whom that compassion/politeness is directed, but the answer is most definatey yes!
One way to foster mediocracy among kids is to hand out participation medals at sporting events so no-one has to feel bad.
It defeats the point. So you ask, what’s the point of competition? Well, to get what’s best. Fundamentally, we compete so that we can eat. (When you consider that most games involve hitting some kind of target, it’s quite possible that sport derived from hunting. )
But competition works in reverse. It gets the best (and worst) out of us. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Competition does drive better results but so does working as a team. So, you might conclude, the very best results come from competing as groups.
This is why I believe sports is so important, especially for children/adolescents. It teaches you to both work as a team and how to negotiate on your group’s behalf.
There’s always a way to stack the personality cards in your favour.
The other thing sport teaches you is how to lose, how to “take it on the chin.” We undermine that process by doing things like handing out participation medals. But we also undermine that process by instilling a cutthroat win-at-all-costs mentality.
The most important thing isn’t winning, it’s being allowed to compete again next time. In the game of life that’s what gives you the best chance of success.
The Dark Knight
Let’s finish this post by talking about those who don’t play fair. The so-called assholes who end up ruling the world. Many of them are, of course, but to lie the blame squarely at their feet is to miss the lesson.
Jokes aside, just because someone isn’t personable doesn’t mean they’re bad. And just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they’re good.
Perhaps it’s us agreeable types that need to develop a bit more backbone?
If you ask me, the world’s isn’t short of nice people. We don’t need more fake niceness in the world. What need are more good people willing to act like assholes.
What I mean by that is a willingness to upset/be disliked by other people. (Not actually be an asshole.)
The reason we avoid that difficult conversation is because we fear upsetting the other person. That’s what we tell ourselves, at least.
But the brutal and honest truth is – the real reason we don’t want to make other people feel bad – is because that would make us feel bad.
Yet, by avoiding that difficult conversation we become less resilient. We all feel worse (and are worse off) in the long run.
And none of us are awake.
As a society it seems we’ve forgotten that being offended is actually a choice. It’s not one that should be taken lightly.
Sticks and stones remember?
Being offended has little to do with the horrible things someone else has said, but what you believe. It has to do with the expectations you’ve placed on others.
I’ll finish with this thought.
I once heard the remark that success can be measured by the number of difficult conversations one has had. In an increasingly polarised world I believe the success or failure of democracy will be measured by the same yard stick.
The way to fight the forces of evil – both within and out – is through understanding. To do that we must be willing to have the difficult conversations.
Ultimately this is what the freedom of speech was designed to both protect and promote. It’s the one thing we should all agree on.
The complete freedom to disagree.
This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:
Openness (which is actually Openness to experience) breaks down into Intellect and Openness.
Intellects like grappling with ideas. They love to solve complex problems and debate philosophical matters. They have a rich vocabulary and can formulate ideas clearly.
Those high in Openness enjoy the beauty found in nature and art. They see patterns that others don’t. They tend to be very reflective – the so-called daydreamers who always have their heads stuck in the clouds.
Open types love to experience new things, of course. Having a creative outlet isn’t so much a hobby as it is a need. Like oxygen!
In simple terms, we can say that straight Openness is associated with creativity, imaginativeness, and interest in aesthetics, whereas Intellect is related to an interest in ideas.
Let’s start with creativity and Openness before moving on to Intellect, and the link both have to intelligence.
What Is Creativity?
To quote the dictionary, “creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Inventiveness is a good word. What’s going to help facilitate a creative mind is exposure to many different things, movies, experiences, books, art, theatre, etc, etc.
For example, how many uses can you think up for a brick?
Less open people typically generate fewer and more obvious answers to this question, like building a wall or a house. Whereas an open person will think weapon, paperweight, doorstop, or putting it on the gas pedal of a car in case you want to drive it off a cliff without anyone in it. (Naturally.)
You can measure creativity by the sheer number of ideas or in terms of originality.
What differentiates an open person’s brain has something to do with latent inhibition, a process also known as learned irrelevance.
Of course, it’s impossible to take in every detail the world throws our way. Learning what to ignore is critical, otherwise we would become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data presented.
So what our clever little minds do is cull irrelevant information. The cost here is this information may be helpful later on. When later on arrives, we may fail to recognise its significance, to unlearn its irrelevance.
For the average person, this information – having been rendered irrelevant – gets filtered out. So it fails to penetrate awareness. Open people, on the other hand, are far more likely to bring that information to mind.
This is what, in part, makes Open people great problem solvers. The ability to connect seemingly unrelated dots, to see things that others don’t.
The Costs of Openness
So, you can think of latent inhibition as the brain’s filter. Open-minded people have a leakier consciousness that lets more information in.
You might think that’s great because you notice more. That must be an advantage. This is true, but it also means you’re more likely to struggle with distraction. Focusing on the task at hand can be tough if you’re always off in the clouds.
The danger for a closed-minded individual is ignoring what is pertinent. The warning signs that what you are doing or thinking is wrong.
We shouldn’t always follow the standard operating procedures (as we say in aviation). Often we need to think laterally to overcome a problem. To adapt to an ever-changing world.
If you have a belief – if you only ever look for/accept what confirms that belief – your idea of the world may crash violently with reality. This can be hard to reconcile if you don’t learn to open your mind – if not for you, then for those on who you enforce your particular worldview.
The Link to Intelligence.
It’s difficult to talk about Openness without mentioning intelligence.
I should say, a straight IQ test is still the best way to measure intelligence, although you’re unlikely to be low in IQ if you score high in either Intellect or Openness. However, it’s not uncommon to be low in Intellect but high in IQ.
This is because Intellect is a measure of interest in abstract ideas, essentially, whereas an IQ test is a measure of processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, and problem-solving capacity.
It’s like an old chessplayer competing against a younger apprentice. The younger kid may be able to think quicker, but the more senior player has a considerable breadth of knowledge to draw on.
Some Closing Thoughts
I want to finish this post by bringing up a final point about intelligence.
Sometimes, something of a superiority complex is found in naturally intelligent people. If you have an IQ of 115 or greater, that puts you in the top 15 % of the population. What’s more, most people you know are probably just as smart as you are.
You’re not seeing the whole picture.
There are just as many people at the other end of the IQ spectrum. Those who score less than 83 are not eligible to be inducted into the United States army. They really struggle to look after themselves in a modern complex industrial society.
What that means is (I’m taking an educated guess here that I’m talking to the top 15%) you’re really fucking lucky. If you have a high IQ that is something to be extremely grateful for.
Not to belittle any hard work for whatever successes you may have accomplished, but IQ is the most significant determinant of success. Nothing else comes close.
This makes sense when you consider that lateral thinking requires taking an idea from one domain and applying it to another. It involves exposure to lots of different things.
The jack-of-all-trade types.
When you ruthlessly chase a goal, you have to compartmentalise the world. You’re less concerned with out-of-the-box thinking. Dedication to the task at hand means excluding everything else.
This is what it takes to be a very successful master of one.
The Benefits of Conscientiousness
Conscientiousness can be broken down into the following two aspects: Industriousness and Orderliness.
Those who score high in Industriousness are driven, focused and determined. They finish what they start. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the buzzword known as Grit?
Well, it’s the same thing.
Those high is Orderliness want everything to be in its place, every detail taken care of. They hate mess (and messy people). They believe in following the rules and dislike having their routine disrupted.
So, to summarise, conscientious people may be described as careful, reliable, well organised, self-disciplined, and persevering.
Well sign me up batman!
No wonder our results-obsessed society makes a song and dance about this character trait. It’s easy to see why you would want to be more conscientious.
What’s less easy to see are the costs associated with higher conscientiousness.
And let’s be clear, conscientious is the highest predictor of success after IQ.
It’s resistance to change. Why? Because change often brings a certain amount of chaos along with it. And too much chaos can be a dangerous thing.
I find this infinitely fascinating because guess what the highest predictor of liberal beliefs in character traits are? That’s right, openness.
Open people like to think laterally. They want information and ideas to flow freely because it opens up new possibilities. They want to flatten borders and tear down walls. Open people hate being boxed in.
What is the definition of creativity if not to think outside the box?
But those who aren’t creative couldn’t care less. They crave order to a much higher degree. They want to remain dutifully within the damn box.
Of course, there are pros and cons at either end of the liberal/conservative divide here. Boxes are both good and bad. They provide protection but also restrict the free flow of information and ideas.
Now, one of the biggest killers historically has been pathogens. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with anything?
The reason for this, in part, is because diseases historically weren’t well understood, if at all. Its control often depended on the adherence to ritualised behavioural practises.
But of course, people didn’t know which ritualised behavioural practices reduced the risk of infection. So, to be sure, best to conform across the board.
It was foreigners, non-conformers, dissenters, and other “dirty liberals” who often posed the most significant health threat.
Herein lies the biggest danger of being too conscientious. I think the word tolerance fits the bill very nicely – or rather, intolerance.
Most authoritarian regimes are driven by their need for order at the expense of everything else. It takes over.
To use an extreme example, Hitler was one conscientious motherfucker. The man went from failed artist (perhaps, unsurprisingly, now that I think about it) to commandeering the most powerful military in the world in the matter of two decades.
He was incredibly focused and determined in the pursuit of his goals. Do we think that was a good thing? No. Why? Because his values were fucked, and so, as a result, was the rest of Europe.
Here is where the idea of pathogens will raise hairs on the back of your neck. Hitler often used the metaphor that the Aryan race was a body threatened by pathogens.
This brings up a point I want to make about “success.” The ability to implement an idea isn’t nearly as important as the idea itself. If you’re driven by terrible values, we may all suffer the consequences.
How to Become More Conscientious
On the flip side – to come back to the benefits of conscientiousness – a good idea isn’t worth a damn if you’re unable or unwilling to implement it.
This is where open types can struggle. They come up with a myriad of excellent ideas that they often fail to put into practice.
Part of the problem is their nature. They shrug their shoulders at mess. They are the laid-back, happy-go-lucky, Big Lebowski types.
Unconscientious people are much more interested in seeing where the wind takes them.
This makes them more adaptable, of course. It means they are more accepting of change, but it can come at a significant longer-term cost if they never commit to anything.
I think it’s crucial for those sitting on the lower side of the spectrum to recognise this.
The question is, then, how do we become more conscientious?
To take a leaf out of the conservative’s book, I think the idea of setting clearly defined boundaries is a good one. Learn to set and follow a schedule. (Punctuality is heavily linked to conscientiousness.)
When you commit to working, learn to block out the outside world. Focus has much more to do with eliminating distractions than it does to do with applying effort.
Literally put up a wall by locking yourself in a room. Don’t allowing yourself to check your phone till you’ve finished writing that goddamn blog post about conscientiousness, you open-headed dope!
Neuroticism can be broken down into the following two aspects: Volatility and Withdrawal.
I think it’s helpful to liken them to the fight or flight or freeze response system, where volatility represents fight (think anger, irritability, unstable etc.), and withdrawal represents flight or freeze (think anxiety, fear, depression etc.).
I score moderately high in withdrawal but lower in volatility. This has something to do with past trauma. As a result, I tend to shrink into my shell.
There are only two kinds of people who don’t feel fear: psychopaths and the dead. If you’re wondering what the costs at either end of the neuroticism scale are, this is an excellent way to think about it. Too high, and it kills your quality of life. Too low, and it kills you.
Something we could all do well to work on is changing our relationship to fear. Fear is our friend – our ally.
He’s just not a terribly intelligent one. He was made during a very different time in a very different environment. So you have to remain kind but objective.
But you can reframe your relationship to fear. You can befriend it. Often it is a powerful indicator – telling us exactly what we should do.
Something as seemingly minor as tidying your room is an excellent mental health exercise. It can have cascading effects leading to improvements in other areas of your life.
Second: Build a routine.
A critical aspect of implementing a plan is having a routine. Concentrating less on the outcome so much as showing up and doing something – anything – pushes you toward positive change.
I suggest you start with sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Try to meditate, exercise, and eat at the same time too. Make it so small you can’t fail to begin with. 5 minutes of meditation – 5 pushups, etc.
You want to place some scaffolding into your day – some predictability – from which to build and explore.
Third: Confront the dragon.
You want to voluntarily seek out the dragon and take it on. You want to push yourself into uncomfortable situations willingly.
This part should come last. Build towards it slowly – simply sharpen your sword, to begin with. Don’t tell yourself to take on the whole dragon in one go.
You must negotiate with your anxiety – find the task that scares you but that you are willing to do – and encourage yourself to do it. Then really praise yourself for having done it.
Only by exposing yourself to a threat or obstacle will you break down the belief that you can’t overcome it. By facing the thing and approaching it – however minor the step – you start to indicate to your anxiety system that you’re more competent than the thing is dangerous.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap. Next up: Conscientiousness.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that never gives up – even when all hope is lost!
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good!
3 x Thoughts:
1) We’re taught to do things to please our parents for survival. When we eventually grow up we realise we don’t have to do things to please others anymore. Only what we know is right in our hearts. Often that means saving yourself because we’re the only ones that can.
2) It’s important to maintain both a sense of control and a sense of change in our lives. Too much predictability the more meaningless our existence begins to feel. But too much change can throw us into chaos. We start to feel out of control. We need to pursue meaningful but manageable change over time. To do that we need to imagine the person we want to become and then take baby steps through steady, controlled self-discipline.
3) When a pilot flies an aeroplane the last thing they aim at is the obstacle they don’t want to hit. If a plane is on fire the pilots only have one goal: The nearest piece of tarmac. They will think of nothing else. They sure as hell won’t give up, even if the odds are truly stacked against them. How could they? Why would they? And why would you?
2 x Quotes:
“My conclusion as a clinical psychologist has been that as paralyzing and terrible as our propensity for negative emotion is, and as grounded in reality as that propensity might be, it’s more the case that our ability to overcome it is actually stronger than it’s grip on us.”
— Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
— Charles Darwin
1 x Joke:
It’s been raining a lot here recently. When we went outside yesterday I asked my wife is she wanted to hear a joke about umbrellas.
She said, “No, it’ll probably go straight over my head.”
Extraversion breaks down into the following two fundamental aspects: assertiveness and enthusiasm.
Those high in assertiveness are the take-charge types. The so-called natural-born leaders. The game-changing alphas. (A valuable trait for a pilot, I might add.)
Those high in enthusiasm are talkative and charismatic. They’re the life of the party. The ones who make friends with enviable ease. (Don’t you just love to hate them?)
What drives extroversion is one’s propensity toward feeling positive emotions. In that sense it’s great to be an extrovert. It feels good to feel good.
And it does feel good to take charge. It does feel good to be enthusiastic about stuff. It does feel good to have lots of friends and sex. (So I’m told.)
I am not extroverted by nature, but I try my utmost to wear that hat when I enter the cockpit of an aeroplane. That feeling when you take the autopilot out and really back yourself. There’s nothing like it. (If only I backed myself!)
What’s important to stress is that lower neuroticism correlates most heavily with greater subjective well-being, not extraversion. There’s an essential difference between not being happy and feeling bad.
They get a lot more from spending time in nature and partaking in reflective activities. They love to sit quietly and read a good book with a nice warm cuppa joe. They value close intimate relationships as opposed to having lots of them.
Working by their lonesome doesn’t bother them so much. On the other hand, they might find a job that requires working with lots of people exhausting. An introvert probably shouldn’t marry an extrovert either. (Just imagine the horror!)
I would also argue that introverts should consciously work on their social skills. They should say yes to drinks on a Friday night every now and then. They should try striking up a conversation with a stranger. They should put their hand up and lend their thoughts.
Some 80-plus years ago, researchers embarked on one of the longest (and most boring) projects in human psychology. It started with the idea that people are born with different character traits that remain relatively stable throughout one’s lifetime.
After putting this list together, another researcher – let’s call him researcher number 2 (presumably because number 1 killed himself out of boredom) – took that list and started to categorise these words into, well, categories.
Unfortunately he also killed himself, so another bunch of researchers took over and began the painstaking job of measuring these categories, or traits, on a large number of people over a very long period of time.
The researchers who managed not to kill themselves (God bless) started narrowing this list down by binning any trait that fluctuated too much – failing to show any signs of stability over time.
Eventually, the list got smaller and smaller until, by the 1960s, they were left with just 5. (Traits, that is, not researchers.) Those were:
At this point, researcher number 648 – I believe it was – confidently declared that these five traits can be used to explain all human behaviour. It took another 20 years or so before researchers had the data to back up this bold claim, but it turned out that number 648 was right!
The main thing to take from this sad story is that the Big Five traits represent one of the most established and empirically driven measurements in human psychology.
Of course there is some disagreement with the model. Some believe there should a sixth trait while others disagree with the semantics, but, in the main, psychologists agree that the Big Five model captures the human experience well.
Those high in conscientiousness like to do things to the very best of their ability. They enjoy following schedules and the predictability of routines. Whereas those high in openness are very creative. They love to travel and experience new things.
Finally, those high in agreeableness are kind and compassionate in nature. They love helping and caring for others.
It’s worth reiterating that each trait represents a range between two extremes. So low extraversion would mean you’re introverted. Low neuroticism would mean you’re a zen Buddhist monk. Low agreeableness would mean you’re a bit of ass.
You get it!
Where you lie on the range of each trait makes up your personality’s basic – underlying – structure. Of course, the variations are vast. And, of course, our personalities are complicated. They do change day to day depending on our mood, environment etc.
This leads the argument that such models are too simplistic – that they will always be prone to error because they can’t capture someone’s personality in its entirety.
Why Should You Use The Big Five Personality Model
To give you an analogy, if I call a tree a tree, it paints a very blurry picture in your mind’s eye. But no two trees are the same. Your idea of a tree is going to be very different from mine.
So, it’s worth you giving a few details to hang your hat on. Telling you what kind of tree it is, what environment it is best suited to, etc.
But If I take that too far – if I start describing the detail of every leaf, well, you might want to kill yourself. This is the equivalent of breaking it down to the level of the individual. It’s actually impossible to do for one thing.
What you want is to slice up the pie to the extent that it provides a practical framework to work with, but not to the point that the details take you away from the bigger – more important – picture.
Now, where that happy medium lies has been the subject of much (painfully dull) debate over the years, with different personality models proposed ranging from over 4000 traits to just 3.
The big five emerged as the leader from the pack following extensive literature. It is seen as the preferred model by many in psychology today.
A good way to visualise this is to imagine the big five as the major branches of a tree, with the facets and sub-facets representing the smaller branches and leaves.
This gives you both a lower and higher resolution picture to work with. Here’s a pretty picture:
Understanding Yourself Using The Big Five Personality Model
Over the following weeks I will write a post about each of the big five traits and the two correlated aspects they break down into.
I will propose several theories for why they exist and what the personality strengths and weaknesses are (broadly speaking) depending on which side of the spectrum you tilt towards.
I will offer up some practical advice for helping you work with and strengthen your particular personality hand.
But before I do, it’s worth understanding the particular personalty hand we’ve been dealt in greater detail. So here’s some homework to do before next week’s enthralling lesson.
You can head over to understandmyself.com and take a test that will give you a detailed breakdown of your particular personality make-up based on the Big Five model.
(You can also do this as a couple and get an additional report that points out your blind spots. Something I can highly recommend.)
I believe it costs 10 USD. (There are free versions of this test available, of course. The only reason I recommend this one is because of the detailed report it gives telling you where you lie on the spectrum of both the Big Five and their correlated aspects, also what that means for you.)
I should say, if you tend to be hyper self-critical, it’s going to skew the results. It’s important to be honest but try to take it when you feel normal.
Anyway folks, that’s it from me this week.
The main points are:
The Big Five represents one of the most established and empirically driven models in human psychology.
It’s considered one of the most reliable personality models in modern psychology.
The Big Five represent the basic underlying structure of one’s personality. Each trait breaks down into correlated aspects that give you a higher resolution picture.
You can take a test at understandmyself.com to find out where you land on the spectrum of each trait and what that means for you.
It’s best not to kill yourself.
Stay tuned and stay alive – I swear it gets a lot more interesting!
I recently completed a course on personality theory that I found infinitely fascinating. Today I want to share some thoughts about how this understanding can help us better navigate in the world.
You can think of personality as the lens through which we view the world. It functions by filtering the world so we only pay attention to certain things. This then influences the way we think, feel, and act.
Part of what colours our lens has to do with the environment in which we have been raised. But another significant part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with.
Not only for knowing who we should become but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. They will never be able to look at the world like you do – neither will you they. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.”
This is also why we should pick things like our profession based on our personality. Some are of us are naturally creative while others look at art and simply don’t get it. Conversely, some of us are highly conscientious while others couldn’t care less if they put odd socks on in the morning.
Most organisations need a combination of both vertical (in-the-box) type thinkers and lateral (out-of-the-box) type thinkers. Indeed, the world needs various personality types because there isn’t a single answer to all of the world’s problems.
Does this mean we can’t adjust the colour of our lens? Does it mean we can’t become something we’re not? No, not entirely. Our personalities change naturally as we age. They are malleable. And we should try to expand the limits of our own personality.
That said, there are limits. After a certain point, you get diminishing rates of return. We all have a proclivity to learn specific skills more quickly than others. We all struggle to understand certain things more than others too.
This is because all of us have limited cognitive abilities. We’re simply incapable of processing all of the objective facts in the unknowable universe. Different personalities are nature’s way of covering all bases.
This is important for understanding different political persuasions, which is heavily influenced by personality. Sometimes liberals have the answer; at other times conservatives do. But, at the end of the day, to quote some Indian dude, “the left-wing and right-wing are part of the same bird.”
We need diversity of thought. And we desperately need to work together despite our differences. This is how we cover each other’s blind spots.
Ultimately this understanding can help us find that goldilocks position in life we’re all looking for. The one that suits us best (and this, I firmly believe, best suits the world too). But it also helps to adjust the parts of ourselves that on occasion need adjusting to fit the circumstances.
Ideally, you want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as possible. But you also want the ability to put on a different hat when the circumstances require it. Because life is unpredictable so we must be adaptable.
The trick is to specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.
But to do that, we must first become clear about who we really are at our core. We must first understand the hand we have been dealt before we try to play it – before we match the game to our particular set of cards.
In the following weeks I mean to break these five traits down while placing my own personality under the microscope. In the process I hope to shine a brighter light on who you are too, so we may all deepen our understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that has a personality disorder…
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe).
As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!
3 x Thoughts:
1) A great way to unburden your mind is to write your worries down on paper. Then, ask yourself some objective questions about those thoughts and write those answers down. Then, keep going – keep asking questions about your answers and writing those thoughts down. Eventually, as if by magic, you’ll come to a surprising insight.
2) What you want is a different hat to wear for every occasion. But you also want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as you possibly can. To put it another way: you should specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.
3) Your personality is the lens through which you view the world. Part of what colours this lens has do with the social context under which we have been raised. But another major part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with. Who we are – who we really are – runs deep. This understanding is important. Not only for knowing who we should become, but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” It also encourages us to engage with the other side so they can help point out our blind spots.
2 x Quotes:
“To be human means to be constantly in the grip of opposing emotions, to daily reconcile apparently conflicting tensions. I want this, but I need that. I cherish this, but I adore its opposite, too.”
— Stephen Fry
“What frightens us or gives us anxiety is not when bad things happen—it’s when we’re not sure whether a bad thing will happen or not.”
— Mark Manson
1 x Thing:
This Mark Manson article: The 3 Paradoxes of Life in which he answers the question of finding contentment by wrestling with the 3 paradoxes of life. The paradox of choice struck a chord with me in particular. As he writes, “Freedom is only meaningful when it is given up. And we give up freedom by making commitments.” Well worth a read!
1 x Joke:
Did you hear the tragic news about the Italian chef who died?
We’re all looking for that Goldilocks position in life. That ultimate purpose specifically suited to our own unique talents and values.
Of course, we want to maximise our potential to do the most possible good. This is why many of us have this gnawing sense that the job we’re in isn’t quite right.
We feel like we are meant for something else, something more.
I didn’t pay much attention to my nature during adolescence, that critical life period when we are supposed to decide what we want to do forever and always. I simply did what I was told I should. Which was anything but the creative subjects I truly loved.
So I took a random collection of other subjects that left me increasingly confused about my future. Then I studied history for reasons I honestly couldn’t tell you, and then I decided to become an airline pilot.
Becoming a pilot was, at least, based on something I was passionate about. Traveling the world. Nothing satisfies my soul more. Still – and this is important – I didn’t become a pilot to fly aeroplanes.
In a sense, this has been a blessing. It’s placed a spotlight on the person I am.
And the person I’m not.
I believe this is why so many of us have joined the great resignation. And why many others feel incredibly burnt out.
We settle into a job. We get comfortable with it – we know we can do it and do it well – so we preserve with it even though we know it isn’t quite right. We keep pushing the boulder uphill.
But you can only fight your nature for so long before it catches up with you. At some point, you have to make a choice: You can either take a chance on the person you are or kill the person you are.
If you let that inner spark go out it can be very difficult to find the strength to fly again.
As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I mean to take a chance on the person I am. I mean to honour my inner child in the hope that I may do the most possible good with the gifts I have been given.
To inspire others through creativity.
As I embark on this journey, I want to take you along for the ride. I want to show you how to increase your self-understanding. I want to help you specialise in who you are so you don’t feel out of place anymore.
So that together, we may fly free in the knowledge we are exactly where we are meant to be.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that takes an extended break without telling anyone… (I missed you all too!)
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe).
As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!
3 x Thoughts:
1) If you think of a task in its entirety it can often feel overwhelming. Like staring up at a dragon. If that’s the case, don’t tell yourself you have to take down the whole dragon today. Just see if you can take a step closer to the cave that it’s residing in. Simply sharpen your sword. Get your armour ready. Whatever it is – reduce your ambition till you find the task you are willing to do and then move towards it.
2)A low energy life is a dangerous one. To live optimally you need look after your energy levels. You need to match the amount you’re carrying to the amount of drive you have available depending on the time or day. That might mean letting something go, which can be hard. But if you don’t – if you carry too much weight – you run the risk of stalling. This makes things much harder.
3) Often the reason we don’t gain energy from/motivation for an activity is to do with our relationship towards it, not the activity itself.
2 x Quotes:
“Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear.”
“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.”
“A good way to distinguish feelings from thoughts is to remember that feelings can often be summarised in one word – nervous, happy, surprised, scared – and thoughts are the ideas that drive or follow the feelings… practise labelling them whenever you have the opportunity. For example, if during a dinner, your guest suddenly got quiet and you thought: ‘He doesn’t like talking with me,’ acknowledge that you’re working with a thought that may or may not be true, and then consider the feeling that came with that thought. An example of a more accurate way to describe what happened is: ‘When he got silent during dinner, I felt sad because I thought he didn’t like talking with me.’ Remember that feelings are not debatable – you just feel how you feel, even when you wish you didn’t. Your thoughts, on the other hand, can be challenged, revised or replaced with more realistic and useful ones.“
1 x Joke:
We took our kids to beach yesterday.
I turned to my eldest and said, “How does the sea say hi to the beach?”
So my muse decided to take a holiday recently. He packed his bags and went to Hawaii or somewhere. And I know he’s been sitting in the sun drinking Pina Coladas the whole time.
That smug bastard.
Now, I should say I told him to take a break. The problem is, I’ve found it hard to get back into the flow of things. It turns out my muse enjoyed his holiday a little too much!
1I figured the break would do me good. I thought I would be raring to go by the time “I was ready” to write again. But that’s not been the case.
This is odd given my firm belief that you should take a break if you find the muse begging. In my experience you only end up creating more work for yourself if you try to force it.
If you feel overly stressed or burnt-out, I suggest you walk away and grab a beer. Catch up with some friends. Play with your children. Whatever it is, sometimes the muse just needs a little time to connect the dots.
I swear it works wonders.
That said, I’ve realised that there is such a thing as too much time off. So much so that muse forgets the dots altogether. You still need to show up most days.
If you want to increase your creativity, you need some perseverance. Of course, you have to be around to catch the muse when that smug bastard actually bothers to show up.
Consistency and creativity go hand in hand.
The trick, I think, is to make sure you show up almost every day. But make sure, when you sit down to write, you do so without any expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to create something you must publish. Just aim to have some fun. Horse around a little.
Speak your mind.
Then review it in the light of the next day. It doesn’t matter whether you wrote complete garbage. Ruthlessly murder all of your darlings if you have to.
What matters is that you showed up. This is how you learn. This is how you improve. The more you do this, the more willing your muse will ultimately be.
With that said – and this is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned during my recent creative leave of absence – what matters most of all is that you show up for life first and foremost. Your muse isn’t going to play ball if you have bigger fish to fry.
To quote Steven King, “Life is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
The real reason I took an extended leave of absence is because my wife got a job offer in Singapore. Provided the visa gets approved, I will be tendering my resignation and leaving behind a job and a life here in Hong Kong I’ve spent the last decade building.
Of course we needed some time to prepare ourselves for this potential move. I also needed some time to process my emotions which, as you can imagine, have been a little over the place.
Between this, my full-time job and parenting two frenetic boys, I decided to put blogging on the back burner for a while.
Honestly, I’m glad I did. It’s been a bit of a struggle to get back into it, but here I am. I feel ten times lighter for it.
The good news is my muse – that smug bastard – is starting to come round. And guess what?
He’s rocking a sweet tan.
He’s telling me, it’s time to get down to business.
“There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, ‘Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,’ and an optimist who says, ‘Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine any way.’ Either way, nothing happens.”
— Yvon Chouinard
Most of us don’t call fear out for what it is. We often dress it up as something else. Many of us will even rationalise our fear as optimism.
We entertain thoughts that our situation will magically improve over time. This is common for someone working a job they dislike.
But the truth is – if you feel the same way you did several months or years ago – things probably won’t get better by themselves. Unless you do something about it, the chances are you’ll remain just as unhappy as you are now.
This is what’s happened to me.
Right now I’m standing at the edge of the precipice about to take a leap of faith. All of my gremlins have come crawling out of the woodwork.
They’re whispering in my ear. Telling me this is a massive mistake, that it will end in disaster, that I have no idea what I’m doing…
Of course fear wants us to play it safe. It wants us to choose certainty over happiness. That’s because the ego isn’t interested happiness. It’s only interested in survival.
But that’s why it’s important to understand just how dangerous that leap of faith really is.
But to do that, you first have to embrace your demons. You have to give them the time and space to air out their concerns. So that you can really examine them. So you can hold them up in the light and see that fear for what it is:
This helps us understand where our fears are really coming from. It helps us see what we can do to mitigate those concerns. Which fears are worth listening to and which really aren’t.
This in turn can give us the strength we need to take that leap of faith.
Fear-Setting: A powerful exercise for making major life decisions.
“You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort.”
First, you write down the major life change you’re considering.
Second, define the worst case scenario in pain staking detail. Ask yourself if it really would be the end of your life? How permanent would it be? How likely is the worst case scenario?
Third, ask yourself what steps could you take to repair the damage/deal with worst. Would you be able to get another job? What if you were fired from your job today? What would you do? How would you cope?
Forth, ask yourself what the outcomes/benefits of a more probable scenario are. What are the definite positive outcomes (including for your self-esteem, mental and physical health etc)? What would the impact of these more likely outcomes be?
Fifth, ask what the cost will be if you do nothing? What is the cost of inaction? What will it cost you financially, emotionally & physically if you postpone this difficult choice?
Finally, ask yourself what you’re so afraid of? What are currently putting off out of fear?
Perhaps It’s Better the Devil You Don’t Know?
“It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That’s what you fear.”
– SJ Anthony de Mello
After running through this exercise the other night I came to a number of important insights.
I realised the nightmare scenario I’d been envisioning was one in a million. And the benefits – the positive outcomes – were much more likely. Even if the worst did come to pass, I realised that much of what I felt I was giving up was reversible.
But I also considered what the longer term costs of inaction might be. This presented me with another picture. One that was every bit as scary as the one that had been causing me to hesitate.
So I asked myself, ‘what I am really afraid of here?’
After giving it some thought it occurred to me that I what fear most – isn’t what the future might hold – but losing what I know.
I fear losing the gremlins that have kept safe for so long.
People often say it’s better the devil you know. But what if the devil you don’t know isn’t a devil after all?
After all, you don’t know.
What if it’s not an angel sent to save you? If only you had the courage to reach out to it – if only you had the strength to take that leap of faith and leave the shoreline behind.
The truth is, change is the only inevitability in this life. To cling to what we know only provides us with a false sense of security.
I would argue, to embrace change – to embrace the unknown – is to embrace life itself.
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe).
As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!
3 x Thoughts:
1)A relationship without conflict is doomed. We must challenge each other if we want to grow together. We need a person who will contend with us, not someone who will only worship us. We need someone who is courageous enough to tell us the truth, even if it hurts.
2)If you want to conquer fear you have to define it in pain-staking detail first. You have to hold it up in the light and examine it to see it for what it really is:
3) Change is the only certainty in life. To cling to what you know only provides you with a false sense of security. To embrace change – to embrace the unknown – is to embrace life itself.
2 x Quotes:
“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?””
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
If you think back to the Middle Ages and compare what we know now to what we thought we knew then, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that we weren’t terribly smart. That most of what we thought we knew about the world was patently wrong.
It seems obvious to us now that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), that sperm doesn’t contain tiny people inside them (I kid you not), and that cats aren’t doing the devil’s work (and that we don’t have to go around executing them).
If you think back to when you were a kid or a teenager or the idiot you were one year ago – you’ll probably come to a similar conclusion. You’ll look back and laugh thinking, “I can’t believe I actually thought that!”
Hopefully, as you’ve gotten a little older you’ve come to realise that you still don’t know very much. But crucially, you know you don’t know very much. You know that the more you know the more you know you don’t know.
Hopefully you’ve come to see that we never gain a complete picture or arrive at an absolute truth for ourselves or the world around us – rather, we only ever become a little less wrong. We simply chip away at our rock-place beliefs and find slightly firmer ground to stand on over time.
And I’m fairly certain (although I could be wrong) that this is the right approach to life.
Not to think in terms of being right, but in terms of trying to be a little less wrong than the person we were yesterday. That way it won’t bother you as much when you are. That way you’re more willing to challenge your beliefs in order to come to a greater understanding.
I think it’s helpful to think of life like an experiment where:
Our beliefs are hypotheses.
Our actions and behaviours are experiments.
Our emotions and thought patterns are data.
We can go about making experiments based on our new hypotheses and comparing that data to our original beliefs/previous experiments. Then we can integrate the results into our overall understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.
I believe this approach works well because you’re not starting with an old belief and trying to validate it. You’re starting with the experiment – being open to the experience – and then interpreting the results in order to gain a clearer picture. This allows your beliefs to evolve and grow over time.
The problem with asserting that our original hypothesis must be right is you end up locking yourself into a career or marriage that isn’t. You don’t allow yourself the flexibility to adapt over time. Your need to be right prevents you from growing.
We often think the reason we don’t change our lives is because we’re afraid of failure, but it’s more than that. We’re afraid of confronting the fact we might be wrong. We’re afraid of confronting our beliefs. If I change careers I’ll be confronted with the false belief that I’m not capable of doing something else. So I refrain.
The problem with this is we end up sacrificing our longer term happiness for shorter term comfort. Over the long run this is extremely costly. Choosing comfort now leads to greater unhappiness later on. Choosing discomfort now, on the other hand, leads to a greater understanding of oneself later on.
That’s why I suggest you ask yourself what you were wrong about today? What have you always been wrong about? (It’s best to assume most things.) Then think up ways to experiment and test any new hypotheses you come up with the following day.
I’m confident that if you do, you’ll find you definitely are wrong. I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong the following day too. In fact, I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong in some way, shape or form, everyday for the rest of your life.
But that’s ok. Because I’m also confident you’ll see your life improve immeasurably. You’ll see it’s only by being wrong that our life does improve. You’ll see that life really is a series of trials and errors.
Those who are brave enough to keep falling flat on their faces, who are brave enough to keep making a fool of themselves, will end up living the best of lives. At the end of it all – just like those who, several hundred years from now, will look back at the way we live our lives and laugh – you’ll look back and laugh about how stupid you were.
But, you’ll also be proud of the fact that you were always willing to be wrong – that you were always willing to fall flat on your face. You’ll smile and realise that although you never arrived at any absolute truth for yourself or the world at large – you had a bloody good time trying.
You’ll realise that this was, at least, the right way to live.
“The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole… The philosopher believes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the building: posterity discovers it in the bricks with which he built and which are then often used again for better building: in the fact, that is to say, that that building can be destroyed and nonetheless possess value as material.”
“We ask ourselves, “Who am I to share what I know?” Actually, who are you not to share? You have an embarrassment of riches. You know more than 99.9% of people in human history. You having impostor’s syndrome does not serve the world. Everyone is a teacher. Knowledge is abundant. The more you give it, the more you have it. When you teach others, you teach a student and create a future teacher. You become a link in the chain of wisdom that gets passed from human to human and generation to generation.”
1 x Joke:
We were having fondue for dinner the other night when my son flung melted cheese across the table.
I said, “Watch out, there’s been an explosion… Da brie is everywhere!!”
“War would end if the dead could return.” — Stanley Baldwin.
Just imagine you wake up the following morning to the sound of bombs exploding and artillery firing. The enemy has invaded. You didn’t think it would ever happen, but there you are.
Suddenly you’ve been thrown back into the 1940s.
Now, what do you do? Do you gather your most prized belongings and flee? Or do you kiss your wife and children goodbye – send them packing – and then pick up a gun and fight for your homeland? Assuming you don’t have to stay, that is. Assuming that you can leave.
Should you go? Or should you stand and fight?
I remember reading a quote by Bertrand Russell, who once said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” Yet, I suspect there is little debate about what most people reading this feel regarding Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
Do we honestly believe we might be wrong here? I firmly believe war is wrong. There are never any winners when it comes to war. To quote Harry Patch (one of the last surviving combat soldiers from the First World War), “War is organised murder and nothing else.”
But, if that’s the case – if you don’t believe in war – what do you do when war comes knocking down your front door?
Do you stand and fight in defence – do you engage in war – or do you walk away? Do you find another place to call home? And what if leaving isn’t a choice? Do you accept your fate because you don’t believe in killing another human being?
There’s another quote that’s always struck a chord with me. Words once uttered by the great Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” I don’t doubt that he’s right. However, it feels idealistic when I think about what’s going on right now.
Because let’s be honest, man’s ability to transcend his ego is pathetic. Of course, peace is right and war is wrong. It’s easy to say that. But peace can only be maintained if both sides believe in it. And there are always exceptions aren’t there? Like standing up to tyranny and oppression?
If no one had fought and died for our freedoms, where would we be now? How much worse would our lives be?
Killing someone in self-defence is protected under the law for a reason. Just imagine someone decides to invade your home. Image you have nowhere to run and that no one is coming to your aid. Imagine this person is intent on killing your children. What do you do? Do you hesitate to kill that person? In order to protect those that you love? If you’re left with no other choice?
Martin Luther King once said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.” That’t powerful isn’t it? What if that thing is freedom, equality or human rights? Are those not worth dying for? Are they not worth defending to the death? If not for you, then for your children and your children’s children?
I honestly don’t know what I would do if I was in the situation the people of Ukraine find themselves now. Whether or not I would have what it takes to kill another human being – even if it is for a righteous cause. For something that I strongly believe in.
Although the thoughts have crossed my mind before, I’ve quickly put a lid on them – never thinking for one moment that I would ever have to contemplate killing another human being under the conditions of war.
Perhaps I never will. Or maybe – if this shameless act of aggression is allowed to stand – we all will. Maybe it will be our children who are forced to make this choice.
I can think of nothing worse.
After all, here we are. War has returned to Europe. It’s the closest we’ve been to World War since the Cold War. And right now we need to ask ourselves, what would we do?
How would we respond if we woke up to bombing and heavy artillery tomorrow morning? What if we found ourselves in a war we didn’t ask for? What if we were made to choose between accepting the rule of tyranny and oppression or killing those trying to enforce it upon us?