Useless Things

What are useless things? Timewasters are the obvious. But what about the not-so-obvious: multi-tasking, dwelling on the past, or anxiety about the things that are outside of our control?

You could go back and beat yourself up over all the useless things you have done, but this also is useless. After all, you cannot go back in time and change it. A better solution would be to use those past failures as learning opportunities and try to make better decisions.

If there is no value added than it is useless. If there is one thing that I absolutely despise, it would have to be micro-management. As the managed, having someone constantly looking over your shoulder is frustrating. Your productivity is diminished, and you lose the ability to make your own decisions. As the manager, you spread yourself too thin and fail to make any solid gains. The manager can only maintain the status quo, while never developing the talent of his subordinates.

During the creation of this post, I stopped and checked my phone. I saw a video of someone doing something dumb. This led to watching more videos of dumb stuff. The deep guttural voice of Miyamoto Musashi kept ringing in my ears, “Do not do useless things.” And here I am, doing something useless. It sneaks up on you when you do not realize it. Stay vigilant my friends and have a great day.

Gotta Do the Work

From a young age, Thomas Edison was willing to do the work. He grew up poor and got his first job at the age of twelve. He never had the chance to get a formal education.

Through books, experiments, and practical experience at various jobs, Edison gave himself a rigorous education that lasted about ten years, up until the time he became an inventor. What made this successful was his relentless desire to learn through whatever crossed his path, as well as his self-discipline. Mastery by Robert Greene

As he did the work, the opportunities came. And in time, he became one of the most prolific inventors of all time with over a thousand patents credited to his name.

When recently asked the secret of his success, he said he had always been a total abstainer and singularly moderate in everything but work. Pushing to the Front by Orison Swett Marden

When I think about all the things I really want in this world, I must remember that they are not so lofty as to be unattainable. Most of it requires only one thing to make it possible. I must do the work. It is not by luck that those hard-earned victories will fall into your lap. You gotta do the work!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison

Ready, Aim, Fire, and Then Repeat

Who doesn’t want to reach their goals? I know I do. And when it comes to goals, it seems like I have one for almost every area of my life. You name it, I probably have a goal for it: personal, professional, fitness, writing, financial, and spiritual. Yep, this list could go on. And though I want to conquer all of them, sometimes it is just not achievable. If I was a perfectionist, this would drive me crazy. Thank God I am not and no longer pretend to be. Instead of perfection, I am more interested in progression. Like the Taoist proverb says, “The journey is the reward.”

One of my main fitness goals these days has to do with rowing. I want to see how fast I can go and how high I can move up in the rankings for my age and weight. To reach my targets, I am rowing nearly every day. My mind is almost completely consumed with this and many of my decisions in other areas of my life depend on whether or not it will make me a better rower. Will I eat this or drink that? I don’t’ know, will it slow me down. Should I go to bed or can I stay up a little longer? Hmm, will I feel rested enough and be able to get up before 4 in the morning?

How likely is it that I can reach all my rowing goals? Probably not very, but I do know it won’t be from a lack of trying. And what happens if I don’t? My ego might take a blow, but everything else (fitness, discipline, nutrition, etc.) will be at a higher level. To progress in those areas without reaching my goal would still be worth it.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. -Bruce Lee

I would invite you today to prepare your mind and ready your soul by choosing a difficult goal. Set your aim on it and make it all consuming. And then fire. Fire toward that goal with all you got. Fire with discipline, courage, and an unrelenting resolve. Keep firing. Keep hammering with all the physical and mental force you can muster. There are no cheat codes or short-cuts here, well except for maybe one.

Get after it and farewell.

Going After Our Personal Legends

I recently decided to reread The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you haven’t read this short book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is truly a great read that you won’t regret.

In the book, the shepherd boy Santiago is on a quest to find his treasure and obtain his Personal Legend. As straight forward as that seems, it is not so easy. Much like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the path may be straight ahead, but there are many obstacles along the way. In Santiago’s case, it is settling for something other than his Legend. In overcoming these obstacles, he gets content to stay where he is for a year or two. This leads him to view alternate potential futures that are tempting. It takes him a while, but he realizes true happiness won’t come staying in one place. His happiness will come in continuing on his journey.

It is a simple thing to identify with Santiago’s life. Obstacles often come in fresh opportunities, new jobs, or too-good-to-pass-up deals. They have a tendency to derail us from our own Personal Legends. And like Santiago, after a few years we wonder what happened and what could have been if we had stayed the course. Hopefully, it is not too late to pick back up and go after the treasures we dreamed of.

As I continue to read through Robert Greene’s book Mastery, I have also learned that some of the deviations have a way of better preparing us in pursuit of our quest. As I look back on my own pursuit, I realize that some of those deviations have helped mold me into who I am today. They have made me stronger and better prepared for tomorrow. Perhaps my timeline isn’t what I hoped it would be, but how many people’s timelines match up with their projections? I have to keep the faith and continue the next leg of the journey.

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

“At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.” -said the Old Man to Santiago

To stay stuck in the deviation, is to continue being who we were. We have to get past this and not allow ourselves to hold us back. We have to take all our experiences, all our learning, and become the masters of our own Personal Legends.

Harnessing Good Fortune

Buy a lottery ticket, and you might have a chance to win. Granted, your chances might be one in several hundred million, but it is still a chance. If you don’t buy the ticket, your chances go all the way down to zero. Is it worth the dare, or the money?

Instead of spending the money playing a game where the odds are not in your favor, you could invest in your own development. Your chances of success dramatically improve. And if you come into a big payday, you might even find that you are better prepared to handle it. It is a chance, but at least you have some control in the outcome. Is investing in yourself worth the dare, or the money? I would hope your answer is yes.

We are far more capable than we think are. We can be our own winning lottery tickets in this life if we are willing to dare. We are not guaranteed good fortune, but as Virgil says it sides with the one who dares. Take the dare on yourself and maybe along the way you can harness some good fortune. It might be the best investment you will ever make.

Three Simple Things for Fulfillment

What does it mean to do the useful thing? This is the thing that needs to be done. It is the thing that will in some way, shape, or form add value to your life or the lives of those around you. It is not always pleasant, but it is useful. And in truth, that will bring pleasure in the future.

How do you say the courageous thing? You need to listen to your conscience, and that means you might have to go this one alone. It might mean rubbing others the wrong way. You might become a pariah. But if it is in your conscience, you can’t ignore it. Have some tact and get it off your chest. Be bold and considerate, and maybe those who have ears to hear will be able to hear you.

Why contemplate the beautiful thing? This is creation, whether natural or man-made. The beautiful thing is something we should all take the time to consider. It is gift to all mankind. Why waste your time with the vulgar, the cheap, and the ugly aspects of life when there is so much beauty to behold. This will lift your spirit and give joy to your day.

Three simple things, but it might just be enough for one person’s life. How can we go wrong if we give this a try?

Examining Epictetus #35: Memento Mori

One day, I will leave this body. Death will come, and there is no stopping it.

Time. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Space I can recover. Time, never.”

Death cannot be cheated. Time cannot be recovered. It almost sounds inevitably depressing. Doesn’t it? But…

If I spend one good hour in a fruitful endeavor, would I mourn the passing of that hour? Of course not. The only hours I would regret would be the ones wasted in vain pursuits.

In a similar way, I should consider death. When my time comes, will I mourn a well-lived life? Absolutely not, for I made the best use of what I was given. Time doesn’t even matter here. Well-lived over ten years or a hundred is still well-lived. My only regret at death would be if I never really lived at all.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Death is a part of life. Live well and there will not be a need to mourn when your journey comes to an end. Mourn not for others who have lived well and are also at an end. Rather, we should celebrate their life and wish them well on their next adventure. Our separation from them will indeed be sad, but such is life, and such is death. This we cannot prevent. All we can do is continue to live and walk our own journey.

I am not eternal, but a human being; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. Like an hour I must come and, like an hour, pass away. – Epictetus

Memento Mori. Translated from Latin, it means to remember death. This is not a morbid thing but rather a call to live the life you have been given.

Separation through Practice

The great separator will be practice. It will be the time spent mastering the skill. It is the difference between the hobbyist and the artist. One views it as novel, the other as the very meaning of life.

Generally, we are all the same. But the one who spends the most time in practice, that person will be the one that can overcome any lack of natural talent. Through practice we can become something better than what we were.

By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. –Confucius

What is it that you are wanting to get better at? What skill do you want to master? Become the student. Learn. Practice. Repeat.

Rekindle the Spark That Leads to Mastery

This week I started reading the book Mastery by Robert Greene.

What does it take to become a master? Well for starters, it starts at childhood. It starts with passion for doing something that you really enjoy doing. Children have a natural inclination to do what they like to do. Unfortunately as adults, we like to coerce them into doing the things they “ought” to do instead. We do it because we want what is best for them. We figure that conformity is best. As a result, we take them away from the things they enjoy doing and give them other tasks for their own good.

To be a master, you have to reconnect with that love for doing something, like you once did as a child. You have to find your passion in a field and go after it with all the passion of a religious zealot. It is more difficult as an adult. But even as adults, we still have the ability to hearken back to those days of old when wonder sparked within us a desire to know more. We have the ability to rekindle that fire and begin again.

As a father, I have to remember to encourage this with my son. As a somewhat responsible adult, I have become enamored with responsibility, duty, and what ought to be done. And though I like that structure and feel free working within those boundaries, I want him to find his own discipline while at the same time pursuing his passions. It is a balance I am hoping to find not only with my son but with myself.

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity. –Friedrich Nietzche

It would be stupid to forget the reason why I am on this earth. It is a miracle that I am even here, and to squander it would be a shame. This week, I am going back in time to remember what I used to be passionate about and how they line up with what I am doing today. In the days to come, I am going to look at the things my son is passionate about and how I can encourage him to explore those passions.

Farewell.

Simple Progression to Personal Wealth and Happiness

Here is a little wealth and happiness insight from a theologian and evangelist from the late 18th century:

Make all you can. Easy right. I guess that depends on what your definition of easy is. “Make all you can” is not to be confused with “make as much as your neighbor or friends or those around you.” Nope. This is your own race and not a comparative one. Make as much you can whether that’s a hundred dollars or a hundred million. If you want more, you have to be willing to do more. That means you will have to put in the mental and physical power required to make more. By the sweat of your brow, you can do this.

Save all you can. Another easy one on paper. Have you ever read The Richest Man in Babylon? It is a great book with one really, really important lesson that will stand the test of time. If you don’t have time to read the book, which you should because it is a good one, I will go ahead and share the lesson with you. Whatever you make, save 10%. What if you cannot do that right now? It is okay, many people are in that boat. As soon as you can, get yourself to that point. How? Live below your means. Get yourself out of debt. Don’t spend every last dime on purchases that aren’t necessary. Save for that rainy day when the floods of desperation grip the world and the only ones to survive are the ones who threw themselves a financial life preserver.

Give all you can. You have been making all you can. You have been saving all you can. What are you going to use all that wealth for? Will you be a miserly scrooge holding on to something you can’t take with you into the next world? Use your wealth to make this world a better place when you leave. This is a chance to leave a positive legacy. It is a chance to help those who didn’t have the opportunities you had. You could help provide them the opportunities to make and save all they can. You could set the example so that someday they could give all they can to make someone else’s life better. This is paying it forward.

Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can. –John Wesley

This is a simple strategy to personal wealth and happiness. It has withstood the test of time. I hope you enjoyed today’s thought on the virtue of Charity. To be virtuous starts with your own self-development, but it goes beyond the self. It creates a positive force on those within your sphere of influence. This is how you win in life. This is Winning with Virtue.

Have a wonderful day.