Why privilege corrupts: “You’re always doing what money can buy, instead of what duty demands.” – Michael Lewis
‘What is to give light must endure burning’ – Viktor Frankl
Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be. – Billy Fitzgerald
2. This Freakonomics Radio podcast episode, ’68 Ways to Be Better at Life’ – with Kevin Kelly explaining the reasoning behind his advice as given in his blog that he posted on his 68th birthday titled, ’68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.’ I read the article last week and loved so many of his quotes. I jumped on the episode when I saw his name pop up and was pleased to find they discussed a number of my favourite ones (which I’ve listed below). Both the article and podcast are well worth your time.
Some of my favourite bits of unsolicited advice:
“Gratitude will unlock all other virtues and is something you can get better at.”
“Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points.”
“Friends are better than money. Almost anything money can do, friends can do better. In so many ways a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat.”
“Optimize your generosity. No one on their deathbed has ever regretted giving too much away.”
“To make mistakes is human. To own your mistakes is divine. Nothing elevates a person higher than quickly admitting and taking personal responsibility for the mistakes you make and then fixing them fairly. If you mess up, fess up. It’s astounding how powerful this ownership is.”
“Separate the processes of creation from improving. You can’t write and edit, or sculpt and polish, or make and analyze at the same time. If you do, the editor stops the creator. While you invent, don’t select. While you sketch, don’t inspect. While you write the first draft, don’t reflect. At the start, the creator mind must be unleashed from judgement.”
Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week.
Following the rule of 3, it contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week.
As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly to hopefully make you smile.
Hope you enjoy.
3 x Thoughts From Me:
You can never be perfect. You can always be better.
Today is the most important day of your life. This moment is the most precious moment of your life, because it is the only moment you ever have. Come back to it then live life accordingly.
Never do I feel more like a man when I’m giving someone a hug.
3 x Quotes From Others:
“It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” – Byron Katie
“The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not. Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” – Hugh MacLeod
“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory
3 x Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:
1 – Alain de Botton’s brilliant TED talk about why we suffer from career anxiety more than we ever have before. In it he outlines the need to define ourselves what it means to be successful:
Quotes from the transcript:
“Here’s an insight that I’ve had about success: You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t. So any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is. And I think any wise life will accept, as I say, that there is going to be an element where we’re not succeeding. “
“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves.“
“What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.“
I found it interesting given I regularly go for a walk through our neighbourhood park and, in the process, note down any creative ideas I have. I didn’t realise this method of generating creativity had been backed by science!
“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.” – ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)
I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.
It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.
Simply not being enough.
I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.
My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.
I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.
I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.
I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.
One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.
Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.
I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.
At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.
They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.
“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.
Failure to me was confirmation I was one.
I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.
I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.
The trouble is it worked in reversed too!
I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.
I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.
My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.
As Dweck notes,
“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”
I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.
You might think so what?
Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.
Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.
‘Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.‘
I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.
But it didn’t.
It got worse. Much worse.
My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.
This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.
The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.
Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.
Ask for help.
What followed makes perfect sense to me now.
When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.
Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.
(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)
Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.
What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.
It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.
Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.
The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.
Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.
It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.
I didn’t want to father him.
The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.
I let the sadness consume me.
I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.
I reached out.
I asked for help.
“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”
I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.
Am I out of the woods yet?
No, not a chance.
But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.
I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.
I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.
I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!
Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.
In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.
Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.
To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.
I know how hard it is.
But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.
It shows the exact opposite.
It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.
Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.
Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter – a series of my thoughts and feelings from my journal.
Included is a round up of what I’ve been reading and writing, plus a collection of my favourite bits and pieces from around the web, and finally a collection of thoughts and ideas from yours truly. I hope you enjoy!
A piece to inspire action from isolation as inspired by the following Kitty O’Meara poem:
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
From Amazon: “Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.”
It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one that hit home for me on a personal level.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy…
“Help”, said the horse.
OTHER BITS AND PIECES FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Fear setting – who Tim Ferris described as the most valuable exercise he does every month – is an exercise in defining some of your fears about a difficult decision you are considering making, versus the longer term costs of doing nothing. I used it this month to consider what might happen if I lost my job and found it a very reassuring exercise.
ON COVID-19, DEALING WITH FEAR, PRACTISING COMPASSION AND BEING GRATEFUL:
Gratitude, with rare exception, gives you a more accurate interpretation of reality.
Do not try to change people, that’s the wrong approach. Instead try only to help people.
The inability to forgive each other and people’s unwillingness to admit they’re wrong go hand in hand.
The Chinese character for crisis translates as danger + opportunity. I think this is brilliant. Danger meaning a need to be careful and vigilant – a need to act. But as with any crisis there is also opportunity for growth and to learn – to profit from setback.
Make your mission about helping others, not validating the ego. Make your mission about inspiring hope, not criticising others for acting out of fear. After all, are we not all irrational when acting from fear? Have compassion for those who are scared and forgive those who acted rashly and misled the public based on limited, information. We are all fools in this together. Don’t attack. Be kind.
ON DEVELOPING THE MIND AND MINDFULLNESS:
As a rule: Clarity first. Action second.
The great thing about momentum: eventually is becomes easy.
It matters less what you choose to do, but that you give that thing your undivided attention.
Everybody’s mind is filled with bullshit. Wisdom comes from shifting through that bullshit and picking out what you know to be true in your heart.
The egos need for validation will never be satisfied! When you feed it, its appetite over time only grows. You have to let it go!
Your insecurities prevent you from showing your true self.
The desire for others to say something positive about me is a reflection of my own insecurities.
Your resistance to other people only serves to strengthen their position in your mind.
The mind is a tool – something to be used. If you fail to remain aware, the mind will take over and use you.
Learning to continuously question your beliefs, to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, to treat what you know with a very large amount of skepticism, is one of the most important skills one can cultivate.
ON PURSING YOUR DREAMS/DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE:
Doing the things you love gives you the energy to the do the things you need but don’t.
Better to be happy in failure than unhappy in success.
Ask yourself whether you are making this decision because of fear or love. A perceived need for more money is often driven by a fear of losing out, a fear of not having, or losing the things you already have. Of course thats not always the case. If you’re doing it for your family, for a better education for your children, a better neighbourhood for them to grow up, for certain their security, then those decisions clearly stem from a place of love. However that’s often not the case. What I want to stress is to the need be clear of the reasons for choosing to pursue a certain career or path. If the decision is about finding purpose – follow your heart.
I think in our efforts to make something of our children, we often do a disservice to that which is already there. I don’t need to make him into anything. I simply need to encourage what is already there, for him to flourish and realise his full potential.
There is no need to force parenting, just be present and you’ll understand what you should do.
ON HONESTY, EXPECTATIONS & FORGIVENESS
Being honest with someone is important, but unless you do it compassionately you’re probably wasting your time. People aren’t willing to receive rocks if you hurl them – they’re either going to duck and hide, or throw them back.
The truth hurts because we are breaking down that persons reality – pointing something out they didn’t want to hear. That’s why it’s important to be kind, but to be kind while being courageous enough to tell them the truth.
People often expect an apology before they’re willing to forgive. Forgiveness should come first without any expectations. Ones apology will often be returned with far more sincerity if you do.
As inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful Happiness Project, I decided to put together a list of my own 12 commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life.
As Gretchen says, ‘these aren’t meant to be specific resolutions but overarching principles by which to live’. At any rate, it’s a fun and creative way to help outline some core values should you have the time.
I should say the quotes are not mine, but ones that stuck in my mind from various readings over the years. Anyway here they are:
“Live in day-tight compartments”– Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow.
“Don’t cry over spilt milk” – You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget.
“Pay Rapt Attention”– Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully.
“Act and think the way you wish to feel – be fearless”– Smile and be happy. Stand up tall and be confident. We live in the mind whether we know it or not. The wisest among us use our actions to influence our emotions and not the other way around.
“Count your blessings – Not your troubles”– First – aim to get what you want and then Second – Enjoy it! Be grateful everyday. You’re exceptionally lucky.
“Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness.
“Have malice toward none and charity for all” – Don’t waste a second thinking about those that have wronged you. It serves no purpose. We must harbour no bitterness. Instead find time to give and serve those in greater need.
“Order is Heaven’s First Law”– Clearing clutter will help create peace of mind. Set specific measurable goals, visualise them complete, then act on them.
“Lose yourself in action – Just do it” – Secret to being miserable is to have the time to wonder whether you are happy or not. Keep yourself busy. Work daily, Exercise daily and Play daily. The time is now so go!
“Do what’s right, not what’s easy” – The easiest is rarely the best option. Strive toward a higher purpose and think before every word and action.
“Remember life comes from you not at you”– Give up blaming and complaining. Only YOU are responsible for YOU. Be honest with yourself and understand that belief is a choice so choose to believe!
“Look to the stars”– Have faith you can turn around any situation. To profit from your losses is far more important than capitalising on your gains. Take the time to reflect everyday.
I might add I wrote this some time ago after I first read Gretchen’s book. After going through my old notes I thought it might be a great time to refine and update this old list. I’ll be sure to post it when its finished. In the mean time, if you have any personal commandments of your own please let me know in the comments section below. I’d be thankful for the inspiration.