Bonus Points and Self-Gratification

I was in a store today that uses a bonus points system, which is essentially the same thing as credit card points, but in a more localized manner – and I realized that I never spend my bonus points on smaller items.

I always save my points to grab the biggest giveaway possible.

Like a kid in a carnival I save all my tickets for the big azz prize.   Those cool key-rings never catch my eye – only that marshmallow shooting gun in the upper right-hand corner with a light amount of dust collecting on it as nobody has claimed it in months.

Then I witnessed a lovely woman I’ve been seeing use her points immediately to get free items.

It was at this point that I decided there are two types of folks in life

1) Those that save everything for a grand finale, and

2) Those that spend what they have immediately on the first available option.

If the use of credit card or other bonus points is a reflective microcosm of our desire for gratification in life…are there those that pounce at every opportunity available life kicks them? Are there those that prefer a more delayed-gratification – while always keeping their thought on the future?

Which are you? And what does it mean in the overall picture of your life?

If you spend all your points right away, are you a bigger risk-taker, or are you more spontaneous? If you save your points – are you risk-averse or more willingly compliant?

Maybe I need to cash my points in a little more often…someone might beat me to that marshmallow gun.

Ahh the thoughts that pass through my mind during daily routine transactions!

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You’re more than a star!

In a world literally and figuratively brought together and connected by technology and the ensuing relationships made possible, your audience and voice can be as loud or soft as you want it to be.

In this post-industrial connection economy often talked about by Seth Godin (best selling author, marketing guru, and all around awesome guy), we find ourselves both instantly able to sell, buy, or inform more people than ever observed across the history of mankind.

What is that old adage again? Oh yes…the market is your oyster.

The expansion of our new human network, much like neurons in our brain, makes our world a living and breathing entity with almost anyone and everyone simultaneously capable of putting their talents or art on display for the critique and or sale to an entire world.

Which leads me to the question concerning both our world and our lives…

If our culture is filled and interconnected by more than 7 billion people, what can you honestly say that you are the best at doing?

If you’re an egomaniac, megalomaniac, or more unlikely an Olympian, you might believe yourself the best at something in particular, or almost everything, but reality is hardly subjective across a sample of > 7 billion people.

I’d be willing to bet that there is someone, somewhere, better than you – at what you do.

You may sell the most widgets in your tri-state territory, or you may lead ground-breaking research that results in leaps in technology that disrupt your industry, but there will always be someone better at what you do than yourself.

The only thing you are better at than everyone else in this highly connected world is being you.  Which of course, makes you kind of a big deal.

You are the best at being you, and as mathematicians have deduced and Mel Robbins points out in her wonderful TED talk aptly titled “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over”; there is only a 1:300 trillion chance that you exist.   You read that correctly – the mere fact that you are here and reading this article is 1 in 300 trillion.

So, if you spend time trying to make or sell the most widgets in the world and fail to find yourself in the process; you will ultimately fail to find the creative genius, the immeasurably talented, and the almost infinitesimally impossible, beautiful, experience that is you and your life.

If this happens you’ve not only missed the point of this whole ride called life, but have also deprived this world of a treasure so rare that you could survey all the stars in the known universe and still have a greater chance of finding two stars that are identical – than finding someone as unique and talented as yourself.

So spend some time in self-inquiry and find yourself, trust yourself, enjoy being yourself and realize that if you can do all of these things while somehow expressing yourself…You’ve won, and more than likely you’ll do more than just fine.  Who knows you just might be the best.

Of Lobsters and Men

The Paradoxical Moment When You Know Yourself both Better and Worse than you ever have before.

There comes a critical time in everyone’s life where everything that was right is now left, and everything that was up is now down. This precise moment in time is when you wake up from the slumber of your normal unconscious lives only to realize everything you once believed in, and everything you thought to be true, is challenged by the blossoming evolution of your conscious self.

The path of self-inquiry my friend is not for the faint hearted, but reaps the benefits of an awareness of the totality of our experience of life.

Once you embark down the road of self-inquiry, you’ve taken the red pill and can no longer choose to ignore a harsh reality and live a life of blissful ignorance. Pandora’s box is opened and there is no way to go back to living the life you once had, only full steam ahead.

I’ve been living this moment for the last few years and I suppose I’m navigating my way through things slowly and methodically from an external perspective, but from an internal view – my existence is working at a lightening’s pace trying to both make sense of an outside world that for all intents and purposes seems upside-down, and reconcile it with my own inner thoughts and deeply-held value systems. During my feeble attempt to understand an off-kilt external world I’m desperately grasping for an identity to give myself.

When you dive down the rabbit hole you realize the power your ego has had over you and your previous life. Now, that you see it and all of it’s fallacies for what they are, you simultaneously are frightened to feed it any more new identifications than necessary to keep it intact and as powerless as possible. There’s really no way to destroy your ego…but the mere thought that it might happen is enough to make you shit your pants. I mean what would life be like without an ego? You’d have absolutely no sense of self.

I’m not going to paint this as a picture of enlightenment. I consider this more of a reflective point and a reckoning with my own existence.

There are many trivial things that I can point out in my life currently that reflect this turmoil and battle of my inner and outer world, in which I reside and happen to be stuck in limbo, but for now I’ll give you an anecdotal glimpse.

About 8 months ago I quit my job profession as a scientist. I’d given 15 years of my life to try to uncover the intricacies buried within the genetics of cancer in a great hope that I may one day be able to help humanity. It was after many agonizing nights of self-inquiry that I decided that this line of work was simply not fulfilling enough from me, for reasons both explainable and unexplainable.

Most importantly, I didn’t see the merit for me to work as a scientist anymore. I know right?! Who in their right mind would say that a profession in cancer research has no merit as a cause-worthy profession?

I would.

For me, being the operative word in the statement – I feel as if somehow I’m growing in ways I hadn’t expected and am now trying my best to reconcile external pressures of the world, with the wants and desires of what amounts to an ego that is nearly Tabla Rasa.

And therein lies the problem. When you find yourself in this juncture and you know for whatever reasons the life you used to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear, are not the life you want or require. You’ll find yourself at an impasse with your soul.

Everything you once identified with is now simultaneously absent, and the wish you would like to identify with has yet to materialize.

For growth as a human, I’m sure this is a necessary part of our lifecycle. But I fear it’s both a luxury and a curse not afforded to everyone. Millions of people face the harsh realities of the world on a daily basis, but with their self-inquiries hidden away somewhere in the darkest regions of their mind. They have no time for such ludicrous notions…they must act, act quickly, or be eaten alive.

This is a purely a problem of the 1st world and I am keenly aware of that – and believe me I’ve given myself enough tongue lashings in my head over this notion, that I’m certain no amount of public belittling would make much of a difference about how I feel. It is true…you are always your harshest critic.

The Lobster

In a metaphorical sense there are many higher order animals that go through passages within their lives that are phenomenological to what I’m describing – the most obvious being the lowly lobster. Yes, you read that correctly – I did indeed say the lobster – the same poor bastard that ends up in the boiling pot of water.

Aside from being the tastiest crustacean to roam the planet, the lobster has a curious life of continual rebirth. In case you’re not privy, lobsters have a hard external exoskeleton that is fixed in size. As lobsters succeed in life, they grow from the inside until they mature placing an incredible amount of stress on the outer shell – at which time it is finally shed and a softer larger shell more accommodating to the needs of the lobster takes its place. If the lobster were to never experience that pressure, he would never grow, but once he as grown and shed the external remnants of his life, he’s soft and vulnerable for some amount of time before his armor hardens.

Right now, I’m that soft and vulnerable lobster that’s recently shed its armor. Or perhaps, I’ve yet to shed the armor and am afraid to move on to better things? I’ve made tremendous growth internally through the practice of self-inquiry but am keenly aware that I have not reformed the shape I will one day take and grow.

Values

Which leads me to a real life anecdotal microcosm of my life I’ve been toiling with over the last few weeks. The important and incredibly necessary introductory statement on LinkedIn, my elevator-pitch per se. Now you’re probably laughing – from Lobsters to LinkedIn, really? – But please hear me out.

I’ve been looking at my account everyday determined to try and hash out an appropriate pitch, but at the moment I cannot fathom what I want to pitch myself as. Sure, I could simply pitch myself as a scientist with 15 years of experience – a run of the mill cog in the machine that could certainly do all the DNA preps you want for a mind-numbing number of hours and a pittance of a pay, but dammit I’m more than that.

I refuse to backslide my way into a position that not only is beneath me both in terms of experience and expertise, but also in terms of direction and values. I left that world for a reason.   I left that world for a new dynamic role where I can flourish and grow as a human. A role that I can use my gifts, share them with the world, and help people in whatever manner that presents itself.

You see, the thing that happens after you fall down that rabbit hole, and open your eyes for the first time in you life, is that you develop a keen sense of values. If you’d have asked me about values 5 years ago I would have laughed…”values, what values – I work hard is that not enough?”

Once you have values as a compass for the direction of your life you get the distinct feeling that you’re riding a crested wave towards a destination unseen. You don’t know what the outcome of your life will be, but you’re damn sure you aren’t going to compromise yourself to achieve a means not congruent with what you stand for.

Yes, I was a fine scientist. Certainly not the best, and far from the worst, but that world seems so little to me now. In fact, in no particular order these things that meant so much to me at one point of time mean nothing to me:

  • Fame and Success – I don’t give a damn for it. All you reckless souls throwing your lives away trying to be the next greatest thing can keep on climbing that never ending ladder. You’ll never feel satisfied I promise you.
  • Money and Possessions – You could offer me a million dollars a year to be a tollbooth worker and I would tell you to suck it. A year of my life is worth more than any amount of money you can throw at me. If you think I’m a nut, go to a hospital, talk with a terminally ill person and ask them what they’d pay to spend another year with their loved ones. Money is as worthless as the paper it’s printed on. It’s only a means for survival in my mind and possessions only end up possessing you. Think I’m kidding, the next time you drive your fancy car into a Wal-Mart parking lot look and see where you end up parking. I bet it’s somewhere distant from the rest of the lot – far enough away that it might not get scratched. Or how many times do you fret over keeping up with your neighbors? Buying more worthless shit, when that money could be spent on something else worthwhile (which I’ll get to in a second).   I once went into a marketing agency who was apparently an agency for good causes…let’s just say it didn’t go well when we had philosophical differences about the type of advertising that works. Apparently, in the entire known universe – I’m the only person who doesn’t click on annoying Facebook Advertisements. I’ve stepped off that hedonic treadmill and only now see the insanity that has ensnared the majority of the 1st
  • Giving a damn about what people think of me – You know why I don’t care what people think of me? Because it’s none of my business. Jesus I used to be such a people pleaser…I was so worried all the time that people might not like me. Now I feel nothing but guilt that I spent so many years of my life caring so much about what others thought of me, and coincidentally so little about what I thought of myself.

Values that mean something to me now are limited but incredibly strong. They drive my direction (even when I don’t know where I am headed). These values include brutal honesty, empathy and compassion, not yielding my convictions, always being myself, self-actualization, loving myself, and most importantly an open heart filled with love for everyone I meet. I may look like a Russian mobster, but I’m as sentimental as they come. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and always try to let people know that I care for them. The greatest feat of courage I’ve ever conquered is allowing my vulnerabilities to be shown so that I have been able to develop deep and meaningful relationships with lovers, friends, and family. After all…I know in every thread of my soul that the only thing that matters for us is our experiences and relationships.

The problem I have with an elevator pitch juxtaposed with a renewed set of core beliefs is that I don’t yet know where I’m going. I can’t tell you I want to be middle management at a medium sized matrix environment, lean six sigma practicing company. That sounds horrible…and any fool that would hire me for that would do us both a great disservice. The only thing I know is that I am a good and smart man, with a great set of values, who cares about people, and through 15 years of rigorous training is incredibly resourceful. And lastly, I’m doggedly determined to be the best version of myself possible. Hopefully someone out there see’s the amazing value of me soon, of I’ll just have to bootstrap it myself. If we’re all going to be thrown in the pot at the end…what the hell am I afraid of?

Generosity…Your Cup Runneth Over

In Japan they have a custom referred to as sosogi-koboshi, which is simply pouring rice wine until the cup overflows into a saucer or traditional wooden box. Then quite ceremoniously, the guest whose saucer or wooden box is full passes the overflowed rice wine to the next guest.

The practice’s intended symbolism is that the original pourer respects you enough as a guest to provide for you more than necessary, and the corresponding pour to another guest is sharing your new found wealth and abundance with another person who you admire. There are little practices like this around the world…in India; at local pubs the leftover or spill is gathered at the end of the night for a special patron who is the nights guest of honor.

In the US…we’d consider it a barbaric challenge to drink the leftover out of the spill mat. This is just one example of how symbolisms are lost in translation.

I particularly like the gesture of sosogi-koboshi, and think it transcends just the imbibing of fermented rice. It assumes a world of abundance, free from scarcity – and a world where generosity by whatever means is a natural thing.

If you are able to see that you’ve been provided with everything you need in life, you see that anything that comes along in addition, is really nothing but generosity being thrown your way.

If you want to make the world you live in, and your loved one’s world better – allow your generosity to be given away freely without want in return. Believe me, it will come back many times over.  Generosity comes in so many forms – monetary aid being only one form.

Buying the person a meal behind you at a restaurant. Listening and providing counsel to a loved one, providing aid, which could be anything from jumping a strangers car to taking your girlfriends mouse traps out to helping out at homeless shelters, telling a hell of a joke, giving someone a genuine compliment, or just smiling and spreading your joy of life to others who just might need it at that time.

Over-pour your neighbors glass. This world is full of abundance, that’s never been an issue. The problem is that there is just not enough generosity making its way around.

Much love to you all…have one hell of a weekend and let your cup runneth over in abundance and make sure your loved one’s are full as well.

Delayed Gratification, Time Bombs, and Intense Remorse

Right now I should be putting together a talk and preparing for a job interview I’m being flown out to New Jersey for this Friday. A job that by all accounts would put me well into a world of financial stability and would set me up securely for the rest of my life (hello!).

A job that by all accounts is a “serious” and “professional” job. A job that signifies moving on from one phase of my life to another new chapter.  In all honesty – a job I can enjoy, succeed at, and am most qualified for.

In order for me to get this job I need to interview with up to 6 people and give a 30-minute seminar on an oncology topic of my liking. But, in order for me to give the seminar…I found myself retrieving some old figures from my dissertation.

I opened up a time bomb!

Well to be exact – I turned on a computer that I have not turned on in over 6 years, and during those 6 years a lot of shit has happened in my life.

I lost a love. I gained a love. I lost a love. I gained a love. I was granted my PhD, and I completed my postdoctoral fellowship.

I also seemed to have lost some hair and gained some weight.

Here is where I find myself in a state of intense remorse.

In turning on that computer I was brought back to a time, 6 years ago – which seems like yesterday – wherein I had all the promise and prospects in the world.

I was a good looking guy, well traveled, smart, and had a love in my life that treated me well. I thought I was set.

Fast forward six years later, (remove myself from the time-bomb) and I find myself living in the same arrangements, driving the same car, and I even have the same dog.

He by the way is the only constant living being in my life throughout the last six years (besides my family and select friends).

Not unlike the files stuck on that computer…my life situation has been fairly static. But…unlike my life situation I’ve changed, I look at all of the hair I once had, I look at how much thinner I once was, and I look at the happiness in my eyes.

Youth, it’s moved on from me. Most people would say that they moved on from youth, but I have to think it moved on from me (well at least by looking at the time-bomb).

I’m sad that I haven’t fully lived my life. The remorse flooding into my heart has little to do with the loss of past relationships, but more to do with the loss of opportunity.

Opportunity. Apparently, I never heard it knocking.

If you’re a younger person in your early to mid twenties, I urge you to do everything you ever dreamt and do it today, fuck tomorrow.

Or else, one day soon – much sooner than you might think – you’ll turn on an old computer to dig up some worthless PDFs on the minutiae of liver cancers (certainly I admit this could be case specific…you might be looking up the minutiae of something a hell of a lot more exciting).

You’ll open up a time bomb of your own making…and you’ll realize what I’m talking about.  You’ll realize you’re moving on.  You’ll realize your youth has left you and the only way forward is to use collateral you’ve built by delaying gratification and living by the mantra “If I do this for the next 4-5 years, then I’ll be happy”.

You've got to be part robot to enjoy setting up these every day.

You’ve got to be part robot to enjoy setting up these every day.

I suppose, if all goes well this week – I may find myself incredibly happy in the next phase of my life. I may find that delayed gratification was worth it. I may feel a little sense of vindication for all those hours I spent needlessly pipetting small amounts of liquid into 96 well plates.

But I will tell you this, no matter the outcome of this week’s interview…I am absolutely certain that I will still believe I wasted my youth, and I will certainly wish I weighed less, had more hair, and was as charming as I was 6 years ago.

Life marches on whether you like it or not…do what you want with your life right now. Don’t wait.

Wish me luck on my interview…I really want this job, and a little vindication as well. =)

 

 

Signature Strengths to Boost Your Happiness

 

"There will be great feats of strength, following the airing of grievances" - F. Costanza

“There will be great feats of strength, following the airing of grievances” – F. Costanza

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, and I have to admit – it’s an interesting take on using positive psychology in one’s life to better yourself.

Positive psychology is one of those topics that I could spend hours listening, reading, or talking about. Just thinking about it actually makes me happier. I find it absolutely fascinating that our universal experience of life can be changed for the better by practicing little actions here and there.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the book all the way through yet (I just started it last night), but I have come across an interesting tidbit of practice to make my life better already.

Without totally ripping off Achor’s fantastic work, I wanted to focus on the subject of raising one’s happiness baseline. He lists a few things that can instantaneously boost your baseline for the better and leave you not only happier, but also performing better in whatever tasks you’re undertaking (whether it be filling out your tax forms, or participating in a triathlon).  It’s been statistically shown that happier people perform better at all tasks. In no particular order these instant happy boosters are:

1) Meditating (if you don’t know, now ya know)

2) Finding something to look forward towards (vacation etc)

3) Committing conscious acts of kindness throughout the day

4) Infusing positivity to your surroundings (think nature, music, friends)

5) Exercising (yep, them endorphins make ya feel real good)

6) Spending Money (not on stuff, but on experiences and memories)

and last but not least…

7) Exercising your signature strengths throughout the day (I’ll explain in a second)

If you find yourself in a funk, or are feeling a little blue, one of these options is bound to help you be a little bit happier. Even more cool, studies suggest that if you practice these boosters on a regular basis, your overall happiness baseline will increase for the long term (you can teach a new dog old tricks after all…err maybe it’s the other way around…something about neuroplasticity and all that jazz)

Most of these little boosters were not particularly novel to me, and thats not surprising as I am a bit of a positive psychology nut, but the last one was unknown to me.

Exercising a signature strength throughout the day? What are signature strengths? I had to know. And thanks to Google, I found that there is a survey you can take at www.viasurvey.org to find your signature strengths. It’s 120 questions and takes a total of five minutes from start to finish.

Lucky for me I had five minutes yesterday, so I took the survey and the following are my strengths rated 1-25.

  • Forgiveness
  • Honesty
  • Judgment
  • Perspective
  • Appreciation of Beauty
  • Love
  • Fairness
  • Kindness
  • Love of learning
  • Social Intelligence
  • Prudence
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Spirituality
  • Humor
  • Bravery
  • Teamwork
  • Gratitude
  • Hope
  • Humility
  • Perseverance
  • Curiosity
  • Zest
  • Self-regulation

Obviously, this test is highly subjective and probably has a great deal of personal bias…but whatever, it’s fun – plus there’s not really much quantitative work going on in psychology anyways (I say this as a biochemist).

It’s truly a test of not only your strengths, but self-awareness as well.   I realize I don’t have much self-control (dieting…please) and I also realize I’m not the funniest of cats as well…and perseverance is sometimes a problem in my life as well (let’s forget about the 5 years I spent working towards my doctorate, did I mention humility is sometimes a problem for me as well?). One might say this test suggests areas of life to develop as well.

But back to the lecture at hand, according the Achor’s hypothesis if one practices their top five signature strengths consciously on a daily basis it raises overall happiness levels. So according to these findings…if I forgive people, continue practicing honesty, use good judgement, provide perspective and wise counsel to others, and appreciate beauty more often; I’m likely to be happier.

This is a hypothesis I can really dig, and test as well…one happiness boost at a time.

If you’re curious to what your signature strengths are, and how they might help you live a happier life, I encourage you to take a little time and fill out the survey.  Oh, and grab “The Happiness Advantage” as well…it’s a good one.  There you go…I just provided my daily bit of wise counsel and perspective, I’m happier already.

Much love to you all!

 

 

 

Practicing Gratitude and Living a Life of Abundance

Like the ocean's tides, life ebbs and flows.  How you deal with it makes a world of difference.

Like the ocean’s tides, life ebbs and flows. How you deal with it makes a world of difference.

For what seemed like years (perhaps months…I’m being dramatic), I had been stuck in a funk, or a seemingly permanent low tide in life. It seemed as if whatever I wanted out of life was always out of reach. No matter how hard I tried to drive the life I so desperately wanted in the direction of my choice; I was always stuck in second gear, while fighting the acute pull to drive off the road from a blown-out tire.

I was convinced the universe was somehow conspiring to punish me for some unimaginable deeds I had committed in a past life. I was convinced that I had somehow so egregiously offended the universe that, in a sick and tormented way, whatever powers governing the universe were teasing me with false hopes and oases that never seemed to come to fruition.

I had studied so hard, worked so hard, and had always treated people well, but like a mirage on a highway, my hopes and dreams disappeared as I rushed towards them at 80 miles per hour.

I was broken, unemployed, and had been recently heart-broke by a tormenting relationship marked with unrequited love. Worse than anything I didn’t feel like going on. I didn’t want to exist. I wanted all of it, and me, to disappear.

If my life was a musical composition I felt as if I were fast reaching the end. The coda was on the horizon, but I was once again wrong, and nothing but an intro lie before me.

Let's take it from the top, one more time again!

Let’s take it from the top, one more time again!

Recently the tides came back in and with their return, all of the negative energies, false hopes, and feelings of not belonging in this world were washed away.

I’m suddenly awash with joy, abundance, success, good fortune, and a love I never imagined could have existed. I was cleansed and I am now in complete and utter bliss.

I’m in love! I’m in joy! I’m the luckiest man in the world! – I actually catch myself saying this when I wake up.

Most importantly I love myself. My self-esteem is back, I feel a sense of pride in my life. I’m walking with a little swagger. One of my best friends Minnesota Nick, recently commented that I was back to my old shiny self. That same shiny self, who previously had superpowers and was game for impromptu fun road trips.

On top of feeling great about myself, I met a wonderful, beautiful, kind, and loving woman; the kind of woman I never knew existed – the kind of woman my father told me to look for (for years, I never took his advice) and, now I find myself madly in love.

As if life couldn’t get any better, I’m in the process of building a company on the side, and am now being recruited for jobs that more than tripled what I had made at my previous job. (Not that I care too much about money, but I find myself astounded by the change in fortune).  I’m networking and meeting the most amazing people…all of them with inspiring stories of their own.

I’m filled with a gratitude for every breath I’m allowed to breathe. Everything is gravy, and I feel invincible.

So what happened? In the shortest of times, a blink of an eye, or two shakes of a lambs tail, my entire life changed. I feel at one with the universe, and I have a deep and unshakeable faith that whatever obstacle lying in front of me I can surmount.

Is it that I attracted a wealth of abundance? (Did me watching “The Secret” actually work?) Or is it that I am experiencing profound gratitude? Is it a change in life perspective? Or is it a little of all three?

I don’t care.  I’m not going to question what’s happened. Normally, I’d try to analyze my life to bits and pieces in my posts…reducing it to decipherable chunks, but not this time. I’m just going to accept my good fortunes with gratuity, and let those that have always been by my side supporting me, in one way or another, know I love them for all that they are.

Thank you everyone for making my life a beautiful composition. Thank you universe for finally throwing me a bone. I promise not to take it, or anyone, for granted ever again.

 

 

On Pride and Paradigms…

Lion-Pride

A topic that’s been rolling around in my head a lot lately, and one that hits home, is how pride effects our lives on a daily basis.

Pride, Perception, Opportunity, & Decision Making

Pride is such an amazingly fickle beast. The amount of pride we have determines not only how we view our accomplishments, but in all likelihood, how we determine the present and future opportunities available to us.

The reason pride has so much hold on the outcome of our lives is that the reality of our human experience, the very perception of our lives, and our conscious assessment of our surroundings is largely governed directly by how we feel about the gathered incoming information from stimuli of our sensory systems.

Our sense of pride is a feeling and therefore our reality is subject to its whims.

Now…many of you would argue that you’re amazingly rational beings, you’re extremely reasonable, and that reason dictates your life decisions – not feelings, but you’d be wrong. And quite frankly that’d be your pride speaking.

Dammit....give me that emotion chip now, I feel nothing!

Dammit….give me that emotion chip now, I feel nothing!

Oh of course, I’ll concede that there are varying degrees to which people allow feelings to dictate their decisions, but inevitably feelings will end up affecting your decision in one way or another – no matter how much of an android, feeling-less, rational beast you believe yourself.

As our sense of pride affects our feelings, and in turn our decisions, it will ultimately determine our future in some fashion or another. Our pride will drive our lives in different directions completely depending on whether or not we embrace it fully, or soften our defenses and set it aside.

Pride & Value Systems

Pride is the single biggest indicator of the value we put on our lives and the events that transpire within our lifetime.

So is pride’s value a binary quality?

The American author John C. Maxwell wrote “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good Pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect, while ‘Bad Pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”

I would argue that pride is neither ‘good’, nor ‘bad’, but exists in a spectrum and acts within a rheostat to contribute to how we value ourselves, or accomplishments, and our past, current, and perceived futures.

A healthy sense of pride promotes a feeling of wellbeing and gives us some semblance of meaning in life. When we have a moderate sense of pride we take joy in our daily routines, we enjoy our victories, and achievements with an appropriate modicum of decorum. With a healthy amount of pride, life is good.

Not enough of it, and we’ll roll through life feeling unaccomplished and self-defeated. Low levels of pride are noticeable by everyone. Passion will disappear. Our spirit will sink, our posture will droop, our voice will soften and we will downplay our accomplishments.

When we lack pride we approach tasks with less vigor and put less of an effort into our routines, and if we do complete them – we go on to the next without taking the time to celebrate our achievements.

On the other hand, having too much pride can give off the impression that we are arrogant and conceited. It’s not listed as one of the seven deadly sins without merit.   Holding on to certain prides can result in cutting yourself off from the world…effectively stopping personal development.

Paradigms, Compartmentalization, & Personal Growth

 One of the toughest things to understand about personal pride is that it isn’t a zero sum game (unless you’re a sociopath). People are prideful about certain things in life and not proud of other facets of their life.

If you’re a compassionate (or what I call shiny person) you’ll realize this because it happens in your own life. People tend to compartmentalize their pride (they are prideful of the facets of their life they strongly identify with). This compartmentalization of pride is what leads to overcompensation and hindrance of personal growth (as we’ll see below).

In my pride, ego, and self-esteem paradigm I’d describe ego as the sum of the volume of the boxes. Pride as the material that’s moveable from one box to another, and self-esteem as the median volume of the material in all of the boxes.

Oh, and let’s not forget that each box is something you strongly identify with in your life (eg. you’re a Scientist-box A, you’re an Artist- box B, you’re the Wabasha County Bowling Champion – box C). Sounds like complete bullshit I know…but stick with me.

Obviously, you're not a golfer!

Obviously, you’re not a golfer!

The name of the game is to keep the boxes from becoming empty at any point – thus keeping the ego intact. Shift a little excess pride from box A to box B…and voila your ego is still intact and you’ve not loss your sense of self-identity. Turn off the fire alarms everything is good to go!

Putting pride into compartments is something I’ve done for years. Pride may indeed be linked to self-esteem and ego, but in my experience it’s not definitively linked in a compartmentalized way.

I may be able to have pride about certain aspects of my life (box A and box B), and not be proud of other aspects of my life (box C) and they generally seem to balance out my overall self-esteem (see shifting boxes method).

What is particularly difficult for me, and one of my greatest weaknesses and hurdles to personal growth is this bleed over of pride from one portion of my life (say box A) into another portion of my life (box C).

The bleed over of pride from one portion of my life to another hinders my personal growth in the new area, because I am afraid to let it be known that I am weak and need help (box D is damn near empty dammit, I suck at learning JavaScript).

But, because I have fairly full boxes (A and C– I’m a scientist, and can roll one hell of a rock), I’m hesitant to ask for help filling up box D. As if somehow, by me admitting I suck at writing code (empty box D) effects my bowling and scientific capacities. Silly I know right…I mean there’s got to be a ton of superior scientist-bowler-coders out there.

Dr. G's complete and utter bullshit Pride & Ego paradigm.

Dr. G’s complete and utter bullshit Pride & Ego paradigm.

Sustainable Personal Growth and Patience within the Paradigm

In order to keep the fire alarms from going off, and to make sure everything is well during a quest for personal growth (adding new interests or mastering current interests), you have to grow your self-esteem, pride, and ego in similar proportions and similar rates. It means realizing just because you’re a hell of a bowler, it’s ok to be shitty at coding (that will come in time)…and as you get better at coding your self-esteem and pride will grow.

As someone who is dedicated to the idea of self-actualization I’ve realized the most important virtue you can have with regards to the paradigm of personal growth is patience. You have all of your life to become a better person.

It’s Meet and Greet Weekend @ Dream Big!!

It’s Reblog Weekend…make it splendid, oh and sharing is caring!

Dream Big, Dream Often

imagesIt’s Meet and Greet Weekend at Dream Big!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So don’t be selfish, hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags (i.e. reblogging, reblog, meet n greet, link party, etc.), it helps, trust me on this one.
  4. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new bloggers to follow.  This helps also, trust me.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and meet n greet your butts off!

See ya Monday!

Danny

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What do you want to do? What do you want to be? What do you want to have before you die?

interrobang

It was most certainly this existential exercise, which led me down the rabbit hole of self-inquiry. I found myself simultaneously both awestruck and dumbfounded. A year ago when I was working with my life-coach she posed the following questions, “What 30 things do you want to be, have, and do before you die?”

At first I thought it would be an easy exercise…after all, I knew – that I knew – exactly what I wanted out of life. After all, I had all the answers; well at least that’s what my ego would have me believe.

So I sat down with my journal and began with all of the things that I wanted to do before I departed this beautiful life. I sat down and realized for the first time that I’d never really thought about what I wanted to accomplish over the long term (or short term) of my life.

Sure I had some short term goals – the normal – be successful, have a family, find love, but I had never made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish. I had never sat down and put enough thought into my life to even try and categorize what I wanted my life story to be.

Thirty-two years had passed, and somehow I had never thought it (life) or (I) was important enough to try and figure out what I really wanted.

“Aaron what do you want to do with your life?” – I asked myself.

So I began an exercise that took me over a week to actually complete, starting with:

What do I want to do before I die?

I began with this question thinking it would be the easiest…and I was correct, of all the questions posed, this was the easiest to complete.

My only rule was no matter how stupid, insane, or idiotic the idea was – I had to write it down if I truly wanted to pursue it.

I must warn you – if you wish to complete this exercise yourself without bias – do not read any further. Take the time to make your own list without seeing mine.

Now that I’ve given you fair warning – I’ll proceed with what I want(ed)* to do while alive.

*As with everything in life, impermanence rules supreme, and even a year later I’ve certainly made changes and/or addendum.

What do I want to do before I die?

  • Travel to South America
  • Travel to Africa
  • Travel to Asia (India, Nepal, Thailand, China, Japan)
  • Travel to Australia
  • Go Skydiving
  • Hike in Nepal
  • Learn to play the guitar properly
  • Start a business
  • Start a Non-profit helping the needy
  • Write a Novel
  • Work as a barista
  • Open a coffee shop
  • Work in a winery or brewery
  • Learn how to fly a plane.
  • Volunteer more
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail (Northbound)
  • Live on a tropical island
  • Learn how to sail – sail around the Americas
  • Learn Carpentry
  • Be a life-coach/counselor/trainer
  • Take more trips/spend more time with family
  • Marry a kind, gentle, smart, and beautiful woman
  • Stay married to that woman
  • Visit Egypt and the pyramids
  • Take some cooking classes and learn how to really cook
  • Find myself, find peace, find passion
  • Love myself for all that I am
  • Inspire people to live their best
  • Have deeper, more fulfilling relationships with friends and family
  • Finish the list and start another

On to a question that proved to be progressively harder than the last…

What do I want to be before I die?

  • Be loving towards everyone I meet without pretense
  • Be loved by most
  • Be fearless and courageous – A risk taker, Hemingway said, “The only people who truly live are gamblers and bullfighters”
  • Be proud of what I’ve accomplished – no regrets
  • Be comfortable being alone – at peace with myself
  • Be healthy and fit – able to run a marathon
  • Be fluent in multiple languages
  • Be able to play the piano
  • Be a novelist
  • Be fulfilled with my life
  • Be a good listener
  • Be more compassionate and caring
  • Be financially secure
  • Be able to do…as I damn well please
  • Be an entrepreneur
  • Be a philanthropist
  • Be an inspirational leader
  • Be more trusting in myself
  • Be less concerned with the superficial nature of the world
  • Be a teacher or mentor to many
  • Be self-employed
  • Be more understanding and patient
  • Be a wonderful life-partner to the woman of my dreams
  • Be more present and mindful
  • Be more proactive and less procrastination prone
  • Be surrounded by a wonderful group of friends
  • Be a better brother, a better son, a better friend, and a better partner
  • Be influential in the world
  • Be absolutely certain I’ve got the most out of life
  • Be the best version of me I can be

What do I want to have before I die.

At first I dreaded this question, as the first thing that came to mind were material possessions…and I abhor consumerism. I quickly realized that this question could be easily framed to exclude banal possessions – spoiler alert – no I don’t want to have a private island or a yacht.

This list actually turned out to be my favorite.

  • Have friends and family that love me
  • Have a partner who loves and respects me
  • Have a life filled with exceptional health
  • Have financial security and abundance
  • Have a place to call home in the mountains or on the coast
  • Have a better relationship with my dad and brother
  • Have the capacity to know when I’m being aloof
  • Have a better understanding of people
  • Have better communication skills
  • Have a screened in porch, a workshop, and a patio
  • Have inner peace and contentment
  • Have unrelenting joy from an internal source
  • Have children?
  • Have a legacy worth living for
  • Have the respect of most, including myself
  • Have a sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • Have the courage to do only as I wish and the courage to do what serves me
  • Have a close knit group of friends who travel and play together
  • Have time to wander, and money to create
  • Have a creative and fulfilling profession that provides well
  • Have a higher sense of self-esteem
  • Have a greater love for myself
  • Have a greater capacity to know when to quit something
  • Have a life filled with adventure
  • Have happiness from big or small things in life
  • Have better organizational skills
  • Have an uninterruptible passion for life
  • Have a wealth of useful wisdom I can impart on others
  • Have more beautiful memories with my family and friends
  • Have more time to play and more hobbies to fill that time

After reviewing my list, I found (unsurprisingly) that most of my desires have to do with personal development and creating relationships that are deep and unshakeable.  Now if I could only make those relationships, and move those people and myself to Brazil – we’d be all the better.

Recently, I’ve made some life changes to accommodate more of the things that appear on these lists so that I can live a life that I want. If you’re not living the life you want, why live it at all? Wishing you all the best that life can offer, much love to you all!

-AJG

Next up: Craziness ensues and uncertainty rules the day (which is most certainly a good thing). I’ll write a bit about a major project in the making and the thrill of entrepreneurship!