The Shade of Knowledge

Every autumn, the four big oaks in my front yard dump thousands of acorns onto the ground. The deer and the squirrels love it. The dogs bark every time they hit the house like small mortar rounds.

The acorns are a nuisance, but that is okay. The amount of shade those massive oaks produce in the heat of summer is worth the hassle. The oaks are a blessing to those who take refuge among their branches, gain respite from their shade, and feed from their fruit.

It is amazing to think that those trees each started out as a tiny acorn. Such a small seed with so much potential energy! When the combination of earth, water, air, fire, and even spirit work their life-giving magic on the seed, the results are nothing short of miraculous. This is true alchemy.

If we do not plant knowledge when young it will give us no shade when we are old.

Lord Chesterfield

The tree is an allegory for wisdom. We plant the seeds of knowledge. We give them the nutrients necessary to grow. And if we do this, then we will reap the blessings in our elder years.


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Examining Epictetus #12: To Improve, Seem Ignorant

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.

Tony Robbins

The above is one of my favorite quotes of all time. I have spent hours considering it and how to ask a better question. And though I ask many questions on a wide array of topics, I am certain I can still do better.

What is the direction I want to go in life?

Where can I improve?

How can I get there?

The first two questions, I can answer on my own. The last one, however, requires more questions. It demands better questions than the ones I am asking today. I don’t know how to get there because I simply don’t know. And therefore, I must consider these words from Epictetus:

If you wish to improve, be content to be seen as ignorant on certain matters. -Epictetus

A student who wants to attain mastery will watch and learn. She will look at those who went before her to see what they did right and what they did wrong. She will experiment, fail, and try again, repeating the process until it works. She will learn to ask the right questions until she gets the answers she is seeking. If she is humble and doesn’t pretend to know it all, if she is pleasant to work with and working hard herself, those with more knowledge and experience will be more apt to help her.

If we seem to be ignorant in the areas in which we wish to improve, we could one day attain the mastery we seek.

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Do What You Enjoy

I was in the audience years ago when one of the vice presidents of our company asked the question, “Who loves their job?”

I was at this job less than two years. Before that, I was in a dark place. Without employment for over eight months and with a marriage on the rocks, hope was slowly dwindling away. All the money was gone, all the savings dried up, and in debt up to my ears. I was out of shape, overweight, in my mid-thirties, and thinking the end was near.

The job wasn’t a dream job, but it came when I was at my lowest. It was a glow-in-the-dark ladder offering me a slow climb out of the deepest hole I have ever been in. It was an opportunity to start over, a way to get my life back and even salvage my marriage. It was a glimmer of hope when I thought there was none left.

“Who loves their job?”

When the question was asked, only a few hands went up, mine included.

That question was asked over ten years ago. Since then, I haven’t always loved my job. Sometimes, I have viewed it only as a job and a means to an end. But I have also been very fortunate to have been in several different positions that I have loved. I have met people that will be long-time friends, and I have a quality of life that isn’t too shabby.

People only do their best at things they truly enjoy.

Jack Nicklaus

It hasn’t always been truly enjoyable, but I have learned to enjoy the things I truly did not like. I do my best because even the undesirable tasks are still better than doing nothing at all. I don’t think I will be here forever, but I do think I am better prepared for the next stage in my life. That stage in my life when I am really enjoying the things I do.

Your best will come when you do the things you enjoy. Sometimes, it means you must find a way to enjoy it. Even the worst tasks have a silver lining if you are willing to look for it.


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I Don’t Know It

 “What do you know,” asked the voice on the other end of the line. It was the standard greeting whenever I call this friend.

“I don’t know it,” I replied. It was a deviation from the standard, “I wish I knew.”

For the last twenty years, this has been the opening salvo of our conversations. Over the last twenty years, I have gone to great lengths to gather as much knowledge as I can. I have done my best to understand the things I have learned. Knowledge and understanding. My quest for wisdom has always started with these two: knowledge and understanding. And yet when I am asked what I know, my answer is still, “I don’t know it.” I wish the answer was different. I wish I knew it. But the knowledge I accumulate only leads me to the realization of just how much I don’t know.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Confucius

The great Eastern sage makes a great point. One that even his Western counterpart, Socrates, agreed with when he said, “One thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Does this mean I now have real knowledge? Not even close! Too many things have prevented me from attaining the thing I desire most, namely my ego. I have often grown arrogant in the few things I do know. When brief flashes of enlightenment have come in the form of understanding, I have found pride in the accomplishment. But in truth, I am but a lowly student and cannot afford the debt of pride. Who am I to think I have found mastery?

The person on my phone call often says I am the wisest person he has ever met. I can’t help but wonder if he should broaden his horizons to include more wise people. If I only had a portion of my friend’s wisdom, I would be much wiser than I am today. I might even be considered somewhat successful. Yet, that is not the case. Therefore, my quest continues.


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A Purge

We are excretion machines. We take in food and liquids, process them, use what we need, and excrete/eliminate everything that is left. Hopefully. Sometimes, we take in stuff that the body can’t process. If the body doesn’t know what to do with it and doesn’t remove it, it will put it in storage (such as fat). Other times, there is a blockage. The stuff doesn’t get stored, doesn’t get eliminated, and it just sits in the gut. This is not good if the stuff sitting there is toxic, especially if you have damage in your intestinal lining (leaky gut).

What do you do when that happens? For some, the solution is a purge. They want to clean the system out. This comes with both positive and negative benefits. If you are interested, do your research.

A purge for your body may be beneficial, but have you ever considered these words from a great French philosopher…

Get a purge for your brain. It will do better than for your stomach.

Michel de Montaigne

What needs to be purged?

  • Old belief systems that are no longer valid.
  • Too much clutter clogging and slowing down your internal computer. Link: Remove the Clutter
  • The truly useless information.
  • The garbage you see and hear from TV, social media, news, and radio.
  • Needless fear and anxiety.

Imagine all the stuff you take in mentally. Much of it may be good. But how much of it is toxic? Without a good filtration system in place, you could be letting all the crazy in. And if you are not purging that out of your head, you might be worse off than having a leaky gut?


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The Pebbles in Your Life

When I think about living a better life, I am always thinking the question:

What can I add to make it better?

As a matter of fact, it is almost always a question of what I can add. Rarely is it what I can take away. And though I have made many reductions in my life, there is still much that can be taken away.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoes.

Muhammad Ali

Life is a battle. Whether you are actively pursuing the hero’s journey or just trying to survive another day, life is a battle. We all want to feel good. We all want to achieve homeostasis in our bodies, minds, and souls. What we are looking for is balance. And this is more than what we can add to our lives, it is also about what we can take away.

I don’t watch much television. But a few days ago, I watched an A&E biography of Steve Austin. Steve Austin may go down as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time.  This episode was a fascinating account of his career, but there was one segment that stood left an impression on me. At the height of his fame and popularity, he had to go to the hospital the night before a match. Why? Even though on the surface he was the epitome of health, he was out of balance. His daily routine was to wake up, drink coffee, then drink multiple energy drinks through the day, followed by enough alcohol to pass out at night. Eventually, his body could not take anymore, and he went to the hospital in a severely dehydrated state.

In Austin’s case, the default mode was to always add more. He was continually on the road and in the limelight. His body paid the price. But that wasn’t the only price he paid; his personal life also suffered. Was the fame worth it? Fame, like fortune, comes and goes. But on this earth, we only have this one body. If we are always adding and never taking away, we will eventually pay the price. We will be in a state of dis-ease.

There are many pebbles in life causing us discomfort. If we cannot remove them, then the journey to our lofty mountain peaks will be much more difficult. Learn to remove them before they completely halt your climb to the top.


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An Investment in Reading

Warning: This is another post about reading. It is inspired by the book, The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler.

Look at these figures below:

Blogs: Three minutes gets you three days.

Articles: Twenty minutes gets you four months.

Books: Five hours gets you fifteen years.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

What does this mean? According to the author, the average reader reads at a speed of 250 words per minute. The average blog post of 800 words takes about three days to write. To read a blog post would take about three and a half minutes. A five-thousand-word article takes the author about four months to create. For the reader, it takes about twenty minutes to read. And for books, the numbers go even higher. The author’s book, The Rise of Superman, took fifteen years to write. At 75,000 words, the average reader would be able to complete it in about five hours. Hence, five hours gets you fifteen years.

By reading, you are getting a fast-track version of what it took someone to learn, think, and write about.

To use myself as an example, so far this year I have read:

If the average time to write a book is fifteen years, then in five months I have consumed 165 years of other people’s wisdom and knowledge. Even if I only retain 10% of what I have read, that still puts me at sixteen and a half years in five months.

My quest in life is to acquire wisdom. I understand this is not everyone else’s quest, but everyone can benefit from more knowledge, more understanding, and of course, more wisdom.

Jim Rohn said, “Miss a meal, but don’t miss your reading.” Are you getting in your recommended daily allowance? Imagine what would happen if you read only ten minutes a day. That book that only takes five hours to read would be complete in one month. That is twelve books a year at ten minutes a day. For 180 years of knowledge in a year’s time, you are only giving .7% of your day. Is there any other investment you could make that has that high of a return?

In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter) who didn’t read all the time -none. Zero.

Charlie Munger

Wisdom is calling us. She freely gives her fruit to those who would seek it. Heed the call and go pick up a book.

Moreover, books pay performance dividends. Studies find that they improve long-term concentration, reduce stress, and stave off cognitive decline. Reading has also been shown to improve empathy, sleep, and intelligence. If you combine these benefits with the information density books provide, we start to see why everyone from tech titans like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk to cultural icons like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffet credit their success to their incredible passion for books.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

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Who Is Thinking?

Do you have an opinion that is not the same as the generally held beliefs of the masses? Would you consider your thinking contrary or against the grain of popular belief? If yes, then: good.

Well, somewhat good. Your opinion, if voiced, could come at a significant cost. You could get publicly shamed, silenced, cancelled, or even killed. Jesus rubbed a few people wrong with His voice, and He was crucified. Many of His early believers followed Him and was on the wrong end of government-sanctioned murder. If you upset the mob, the mob will find a way to retaliate. Such is the way of the dissenting voice.

What is the alternative? To have the same beliefs and thoughts as the rest of the world? You could. You could go on autopilot, do the same as everyone else, believe what they believe, , think like they do. Isn’t this unity? A part of the collective?

If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.

Benjamin Franklin

To think like everyone else means you have shut down your own ability to think for yourself. You have taken the easy route and have done your best to remove what makes you unique. You might think there is nothing wrong with this. You might be right. But what if the world’s way of thinking is wrong? What if the direction of the mob or Big Brother does more harm than good? By not thinking differently, by not using your voice, you have made yourself complicit in the harm.

In Franklin’s time, men stood up and spoke out against a government they disagreed with. They fought for their ability to think differently. Not just for them, but for all who come after them.


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Constant State of Learning

To be successful, the hunter must be able to learn. His whole existence is an education of what works and what does not. He must be able to observe and read the signs presented to him. He must train his senses and cultivate his awareness.

Like the hunter, the prey’s existence is based on education. There is safety in numbers. Anything that dumbs the senses could result in death (i.e., deer in the headlights). Success for the prey is a long life. And to be successful, the prey must be trained by those that went before him.

Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a constant state of learning.

Bruce Lee

Should we not all be in a constant state of learning? If life is our teacher, then we should be living life to the fullest. This is the way we get experience, the greatest of teachers. The mistakes we make along the way are signposts pointing us in the direction we need to go. Like the hunter, we should observe the signs and consider what is preventing us from achieving our target. And like the prey, we cannot let anything (or substance) interfere with our senses lest we be caught by our adversaries. To learn from life, we must live life.


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The Rules of Fools

We have entered a stage in world history where we are governed by the most ridiculous rules. Most of these rules are implemented for our own “good” by the government. But that is not all, we are also governed on the standards of what is socially acceptable.

In the old days, this determination was established by your community. Today, it is determined by corporations, i.e., tech companies. What you say and do, if it is not deemed appropriate or in accordance with the ideals of the mob, will result in your silence. Your voice could be cancelled. At the worst, depending on how inappropriate you are considered, much more could be cancelled. And it is not just what you did today or yesterday, it could go as far back as your childhood.

Any fool can make a rule -and every fool will mind it.

Henry David Thoreau

New rules come out every day. Will you blindly go along with the masses and acquiesce? Or will you use the discernment and understanding God has given you to question the validity of the rule?


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