The Real Key to Success


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We need to understand how we can present ourselves to the best advantage and to know what role the ego plays in our life. Your unknown is God, and the self is otherwise considered to be the known. But when you want to know what you have yourself, do you really know your self? Do you want to know your self? Have you worked to know your self? My self is very important to me. Yet this is the only thing which I ignore in my life. I want to be known as a doctor, as an attorney, or I want to be known as a business manager. Because I have never worked on my self. I have never introduced my self. I have never cared to represent my self. I do not identify with my self. I do not proportionately appropriate my self. I do not proportionately understand and distribute my self.  And still, I want to be very successful, myself.

I’ll tell you the mystery of life: life is not a mystery at all. It is a simple mastery of the Self. For example, if a problem comes to me, then I look at that problem with these guidelines: I have to work through this problem, I don’t have to confront it. I have to solve it. Then I ask myself – how will I solve it as the Siri Singh Sahib? How will I solve it as Yogi Bhajan? How will I solve it as Har­bhajan Singh? From which area has the problem come from? If it is a problem of Dharma, I don’t have to care whether I benefit or I lose. I have to solve that problem as the Siri Singh Sahib.

If it is a problem in the emo­tional or mental realms, I have to solve it as Yogi Bhajan. I don’t have to solve it with Dharma. Dharma is a path of the human. Those with emotional or mental problems are not yet human. A person does not know what the path is. I have to make a person human and then deal with the human. Therefore I have to deal with it as Yogi Bhajan.

If someone has a relationship with me as a father, then I am Harbhajan Singh. But, I am using the same ego to solve these different kinds of problems.

The other alternative is that a problem comes to you and you con­front it. The moment you confront the problem, either you win or you lose. That is called self-destruction. You don’t need to confront anything. It is not worthwhile, because every­thing moves. The problem will move. (You won’t move because your ego gets hung up.) But you can’t solve a problem by confronting the problem. Then it becomes a hassle and the neighbors will know about it and people will hear about it.

realkey1 (1)What is the secret of success? OPI OPM: Other People’s Intelligence and Other People’s Money. Your own intelligence cannot solve every problem. Your own intelligence is how you employ and successfully deploy the environment, the sur­roundings. That is OPI. Employ and deploy the surroundings. When you employ the surroundings, don’t involve yourself in it. Because it is not you in the problem, rather it is your interest in the problem. You should see that you get the high­est rate of interest, but it is not you.

Once I was asked if I wanted to have a certain inspector working under me or not. I questioned why I was being given an additional in­spector. I was told that nobody wanted to have him working under them. I agreed that I would take him, but I asked that inspector why the other officers did not want to have him working under them. He told me that other officers were threatened be­cause he was so sharp and efficient that they felt that their own jobs might be taken over by him. I decided to take him. I just outlined to him my area of responsi­bility. I told him that I would give him a specific area of my duty and he could take total charge of that area and do whatever he wanted to do with it. I can tell you that I never bothered with that work at all, and he came out perfect. Because he was very intelligent, very righteous, very honest and very sincere. You may get a good worker but it is rare to get a sincere worker.

Another example I want to share with you. I had a pesonal servant named Ramu. His job was just to serve me and personally attend to me. One day while I was eating with my friends he just came and picked up my plate. Then he brought me some other kind of food and served me. I understood his habits, but after a while I just called him to explain to these people why he made me eat something different? He said:

“Baba, you are not to eat this food because yesterday you worked very hard and this food is very delicious and you would definitely overeat. You are to go on duty in half an hour and you won’t be in a position to digest it, therefore, I am sorry, I couldn’t give you that food.” I said, “But, you never gave it to me, someone else gave it to me!” He added, “Another person is another person. I am responsible for what you eat.”

Now, as Americans you cannot tol­erate this kind of situation. Whereas, I have been trained that when we give somebody a duty or a responsi­bility and we find that person is loyal and honest, we totally do not inter­fere with that person. That is the way to use other people’s intelli­gence. But if you insist on playing it according to your ego, then you’ll be stabbed in the back. It doesn’t matter who you are. Because there is no security for that person. When he gives all of his intelligence to you, puts all of his loyalty at stake, is will­ing to devote himself to you and you still have the ego to limit him, that means that you can turn him upside down right in the middle of his work.

No human mind can tolerate this. The way you Westerners have been trained, you have learned to achieve something, but you can never maintain that thing. You can learn to maintain the same situation with a simple attitude. You can discuss with your ego and then begin to consider when this person is giving you trouble or when this staff is giv­ing you trouble. How can you use them trouble-free? That is what your ego is for. Whereas those who live by a hire and fire policy, they always get fired in the end.

realkey3The mind can go through a lot of changes. And the last and worst of all changes is when you deny your teacher the privilege to poke you. It is the worst of all because when your ego is inflated like an elephant, you need that needle in you. When you throw it away, you go astray and when an elephant goes astray it meets death

You should keep your ego to serve you. You should use your ego and direct it to just behave as if it is a servant. Ego is the biggest disease! But it also has the solution in it. In India, it is a common practice to take mercury (which is known to be a deadly poison if you take it raw into your system) and in the science of Ayurvedic medicine, to use it in al­most 80% to 90% of the cures. It is very effective, and very well recog­nized. In this way, poison becomes the cure. In the same way, you can go out and burn your skin in the sun and you can have skin cancer, or you can tan yourself and look healthy. How you use your ego is a technol­ogy. When you start living in your ego, then you will not grow.

I was reading the life of a person who started his professional life with one thousand dollars. He was a sur­geon and today he is a person worth forty million dollars. He was asked how he became so successful, and he said that he believed in benefit sharing. He would offer his employ­ees the opportunity to work out a situation for him and whatever in­come that would bring, he would offer to give them one-third of it. He never signed any contract because his people knew his word was a con­tract. The result was that he gave one-third but they gave it to him totally. He earned 66% more!

How rich you are has to be considered from the expense point of view. Richness is not considered from the income point of view. If your monthly expense is a thousand dollars but my expense is fifteen thousand dollars, you are fourteen thousand dollars richer than me. An economic fool is a person who measures his richness from income. An economic wise man, or economic wizard is one who measures his rich­ness from expenses. That is what rich people do. They go on a fixed income expense and then they kill them­selves. They become victims of heart attacks and no doctor can cure them. Because what should they do, if they have to maintain a standard of thirty thousand per month?

realkey4I know of one organization where for the last nine years it has made three hundred to four hundred mil­lion dollars in a year. Their bud­get was fixed at seven hundred mil­lion a year. Then for the last two years, they were making only two hundred million a year. So there is a budget difference of five hundred million a year and they do not know what to do. They are selling their equipment, they are selling their land, selling this, selling that and they’re in bad shape. One of their employees who is my student called me and asked me how to man­age himself. I told him that it is very simple. If I make ten cents, I spend one. If I make one dollar, I spend ten cents. When I have ten dollars in my pocket, I only know that I have a dollar. I consider the other nine dol­lars as OPM, Other People’s Money. Out of every ten dollars, one dollar is mine, and nine dollars are to main­tain what is mine. For every one dol­lar you require nine dollar to main­tain the grace of one dollar. Do you know this law of economic expansion?

If you represent yourself with the image that you are ten dollars rich, somebody will ask to use it for one hour, and you’ll give it, and then you’ll stand at a bus stand and the driver will not let you on because you don’t have a penny. It’s called “showing off.”

In India, in economics we call it “balloon-talk”. Balloon talk is a con­versation where you present your account multiplied or exact. Even suppose you speak the truth, that you earn fifty thousand dollars a year. The fact is that you don’t make fifty thousand dollar a year, because in America, if you make one hundred thousand in California, you earn ex­actly thirty-nine thousand. Exactly.

realkey5Now you can wangle it, you can multiply it, you can play around, but when you’re dead, your estate will be found in the estate shop on Beverly Blvd. Why does that happen? Because the children are asked to pay the Estate Tax, and they don’t have it. So, they sell the estate and get rid of it. Or, they make a founda­tion. Paul Getty’s family cannot take a statue from his estate. You can in­vest in your self, or you can invest in your name. Paul Getty would have been very fine, if he had in­vested and made his own body a museum where at least he would have gone running on the beach once a week.

Just decide. Sit down and ask your self what you want to be. Do you want to be a healer? If you want to be a healer, let God heal through you. If you want to be a dealer, then go on, pushing this, pushing that, trying this button, trying that button. Every profession has buttons.

Your presentation, your art of presentation, your secret of presen­tation, lies in one fact: you must not confront the energy, you must circu­late the energy. What is God? Every­thing is circulated. Earth revolves. It revolves on its axis. The whole galaxy, the other stars, the sun moves around other suns. It’s far out and it’s nothing but movement! It keeps going! And your success is, keep going! Don’t stop anywhere, for any reason. Don’t say good-bye. The only good thing is to don’t say “good­bye.” Just say “bye.” Perhaps some­day you’ll need that person. Because what will keep the energy going? It is the movement of your thought form, and the movement of your mind and thought and the move­ment of your solving the problems, and your movement penetrating through the problem. How can you do it? If you know that you HAVE to do it.

Anything and everything, logical­ly, psychologically, socially, commo­tionally, emotionally, personally, collectively, individually, is nothing but you completing the circuit.

realkey6What is required to be learned by you is the Self. Because the Self is the solution of your environment. It’s the hub. It is the axle. It is everything. The fact is that you have to understand that you can’t fall in love with a girl, you can’t fall for anything, before knowing yourself, and knowing what you are fall­ing for! If you do not know how to swim, yourself, and you jump in eighteen feet of water, you will drown. But if you get into four feet of water and you are two feet above the water, you can make it. To become commotional, emo­tional, get into turmoil, and not care for things, not to listen to advice, and not to wait for truth, though it is bitter and it hurts, is to cause a problem. Multiple prob­lems are like multiple sclerosis. There’s no solution for it.

The law of diminishing return is that you can handle X amount of problems. There’s a relationship between play and work. Work and play have a relationship which is propor­tionate. For X amount of work, you need X amount of play. For X amount of play, you need X amount of work. If they are out of balance, then you are out of balance and you’ll never be a successful person.

Please remember that without Self consciousness you cannot properly present yourself. And without Self knowledge you cannot have Self consciousness.

Copyright The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan 

Why Silence is the Think Tank of the Soul

Why Silence is the Think Tank of the Soul

Mental noise is destroying your mind

Silence is an endangered species — Pic by Kalen Emsley

Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind for a long time.

“Exactly how do you help people?” — the man inquired.

“I get them where they can’t ask any more questions.” — the master replied.

Mental noise is hurting our minds — we are continually asking questions that create busyness, not knowledge. We are in ‘reacting mode,’ leaving no room for reflection. To regain perspective in life, you need to pause. Silence is fertile ground.

When was the last time you push the pause button in your life?

Silence is not just lack of noise. It’s an empty space for your mind to recover clarity. And to protect it from mental noise.

Many people believe silence is isolation. However, it’s busyness what detaches us from reality. You need to take distance and reflect. As Lao-Tzu said: “Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”

Silence is not about the absence of sound — it invites the presence of everything else.

Silence is an endangered species

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” — G.K. Chesterton

Noise keeps us busy.

Our brain is continually exposed to internal and external stimuli. Silence feels impossible, like emptying our spirit.

What creates noise in your life?

Social media notifications, Netflix binging, overthinking, constantly being surrounded by others, and overloading our calendars are just many of the infinite ways to avoid silence. We’ve turned noise into entertainment — it provides a temporary distraction so you can’t pay attention.

Gordon Hempton believes that silence is an endangered species.

He’s an acoustic ecologist — a collector of sound all over the world. For Hempton, real quietness is being present — silence is not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth is a ‘solar-powered jukebox.’ He believes that we take in the world through its ears.

Noise is contaminating our minds.

The World Health Organization in a 2011 report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”

Noise is not just a modern disease. It has been hurting our minds since the 19th century. Back then, a British nurse and social activist, Florence Nightingale, wrote that “Unnecessary noise is the cruelest absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Nightingale argued that needless sounds could cause distress, sleep loss and alarm for recovering patients.

Permanent silence is not always good either. Animals must listen to survive — that’s how we anticipate danger before it happens.

The problem is when noise becomes escapism.

Psychologist Carl Jung noted that we naturally seek out noise because it suggests human company — we used to need the comfort and safety of the group to survive. Nonetheless, our lives are not under constant attack as they were many centuries ago. Detaching from our environment for a couple of hours won’t put your life in danger.

When you step back from an issue, you can spend more time on solving the right problem.

The paradox of sound

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.” — Elbert Hubbard

Silence is not about the absence of sound but the presence of something else. Your mind is like a canvas — if it’s full of noise, you can’t paint anything new on it. When we are in silence, we make room for everything else.

Gordon Hempton wants your help in recovering the value of silence. “Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.” — the acoustic ecologist said.

When you remove the noise, the essential speaks up. However, though it’s a magnificent revelatory experience, it can backfire if you don’t prepare adequately. The voices we hear in silence can create worrying noises.

Our constant social connectivity keeps us busy. What’s even worse, we let our social identity to speak louder than our true-self. The fear of missing out keeps you away from your reality — you stop paying attention. Without self-reflection, there’s no understanding. Silence lets your inner voice become present.

If the brain is actively processing noise it can’t turn off — it’s impossible to rest and reset when you are always asking questions or reacting to external stimuli.

Getting rid of the noise is more an aspiration than a reality. That’s the paradox of silence: we wish we could have quiet time, but it’s not easy to pull off. Removing other voices means we need to start listening to our true thoughts and words.

Being in front of white canvas or blank page can be intimidating. That’s why most of us run away from silence.

Silence has many meanings

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Is silence just the absence of noise? Or is there a deeper reason for you to invite sound into your life?

Silence is cultural. For the Japanese, silence is more positive than it is for other populations.

Japanese people highly value silence as an essential form of non-verbal communication — it conveys information, emotions and it’s a sign of respect and personal distance.

In his 2007 paper “The Cultural Significance of Silence in Japanese Communication,” Takie Sugiyama Lebra identifies four dimensions of silence: Truthfulness, Social Discretion, Embarrassment, and Defiance. The first three dimensions are helpful to maintain positive relations while the last one has a negative connotation.

In the Western world, silence is associated with doubt, loneliness or pain. If you tell your friends that you need silence, they might understand the feeling. But if you don’t answer their messages for 12 hours because you opted to stay silent, they will assume something is wrong with you.

Silence is always ambiguous. It’s difficult to understand its true meaning.

Rather than trying to define silence, think of it as an experience. Silence is the real sound of music. Empty spaces play a meaningful role in building the right atmosphere in architecture and space design. The white space is the most crucial element in visual design.

There are two types of silence: outer and inner. Getting rid of external distractions is not enough; you want to avoid your thoughts from eating you alive.

Why silence is the think tank of the mind

When you pause, you don’t just stop talking. You also choose not to listen to external distractions. Everything is within you.

Silence enables something else to emerge. Perspective, reflection, distance, ideas, and solutions, all show up unexpectedly when you silence the mind. It’s a whole ‘team’ that comes to help you. Gordon Hempton said: “Quiet is a think tank of the soul. We take the world through its ears.”

Lao-Tzu believed that “Silence is the great revelation.” He said that we turn to books for revelation, but their authors found the interlude of silence as their source of inspiration. Silence can bring you directly to the original source of knowledge.

Silence adds intentionality and rhythm to your life.

The same happens with music. Without silence, the various notes would all feel the same. Utilizing silence for very brief — less than a few beats — or for longer periods, creates a different impact on the listener.

Silence is more than a beautiful state of mind; it positively benefits your health:

  • It helps grow new brain cells. A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region, a brain area linked to learning, remembering, and emotions.
  • It decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. A 2006 study in Heart, showed that two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain — it’s more relaxing than listening to music.

How to recover the power of silence

Practicing silence is not easy.

Going for a walk outside in nature, taking a deliberate break or practicing deep breathing exercises are easy ways to get you started.

Try the following exercises and see which works best for you. Start in small doses. Being silent can backfire at the beginning. It takes time to enjoy the benefits of not being distracted by noise.

1. The Silence Exercise

David Swartz, a history professor, uses this exercise as a transition after one of his courses. He invites students to write a short paper on silence. During 90 minutes, everyone focuses on the task without speaking.

Students are instructed to put away their smartphones and leave the presence of other people. The paper is a reflection on the experience and includes a historical perspective too. What does it feel like to be silent? What happens when we don’t have constant access to a smartphone? How is our lifestyle different to premodern times ones?

2. Beyond the word

This exercise is based on an ancient Indian prescription: if you read for one hour, write for two hours and meditate for three hours. The purpose of such proportion is to avoid being blind recorders of other people’s words or ideas. You can stick to the ratio but start with a shorter duration for each part.

The exercise encourages a personal dialogue and self-reflection. It’s a nice transition: from being in the company of someone else’s words to being surrounded by your ideas as you write, and, finally, focusing on silencing your mind.

3. The Silence Game

This Montessori Exercise builds on the concept that, deeper awareness and sensitivity to noise, help us get into a “more refined and subtle world.” Constant noise can create irritability, frustration, confusion, and even sleepiness.

The purpose of this exercise is to make silence collectively. A board with the word “silence” and a picture of a tranquil place, reminds that every child might do its part. The silence is not only a positive outcome but is the byproduct of everyone’s effort.

4. The sound of one hand clapping

Our logic says that we need two hands to clap. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a Zen challenge that has several interpretations. Some say that it’s a way to help you listen to other sounds — your heart, the rhythm of your breathing or the awareness of your mind. Others believe it’s a metaphor how we see life with a dualistic approach: cause and effect.

I use this question when coaching teams to invite them to reflect on the power of silence. Sometimes to inspire creative ways to make sound with just one hand. Other times, simply to challenge logical thinking; by putting our rationality aside, we let the think tank of the mind show up.

5. Meditation: The Silence That is Listening

This guided meditation by Tara Brach emphasizes the anchor of listening; it guides us to relax through our body and let sounds wash our thoughts out. You don’t need any previous meditation experience to benefit from it.

Listening to sounds is powerful to quiet the thinking mind. It will help you connect with the natural openness of awareness. By becoming more receptive, you can welcome your full presence and the peace of quietness.

6. Building a tower with a constraint

Imposing constraints challenges individuals and those who interact with them alike — everyone must adjust their behaviors. A set of teams are challenged to build the tallest tower using Jenga blocks. It seems simple until most team members are assigned a specific constraint: one cannot speak, another is blindfolded, one cannot use the hands, etc.

Not being able to speak reframes the interaction. The person who’s silent pays more attention. The rest of the team becomes more attentive to the quiet person’s feedback. It dramatically increases both collaboration and self-awareness.

7. Become silent for a day

This exercise is about cutting the chord literally and metaphorically without attending a silent retreat. You can define what ‘a day’ means for you. I would suggest that you aim for, at least, 4–6 hours. And then gradually increase it.

Becoming silence is about unplugging from social media, emails, phone calls, and every other form of communication — including face-to-face dialogue. You need to set up some grounding rules to those close to you.

The Toxic Ego That Will Ruin Your Life

The artist Marina Abramović has said that the moment we begin to believe in our own greatness, that we kill our ability to be truly creative. What she is talking about is ego — the way that self-absorption ruins the very thing it celebrates.

So how do we keep this toxic ego and selfishness at bay? How do we prevent ego from “sucking us down like the law of gravity?” The primary answer is simple: awareness. But after that, it’s a matter of hard work.

In the course of researching Ego is the Enemy I was exposed to many strategies for combatting our arrogant and selfish impulses. Here are 25 proven exercises from successful men and women throughout history that will help you stay sober, clear-headed, creative and humble. They work if you work them.

1. Adopt the beginner’s mindset. “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows,” Epictetus says. When we let ego tell us that we have arrived and figured it all out, it prevents us from learning. Pick up a bookon a subject you know next to nothing about. Walk through a library or a bookstore — remind yourself how much you don’t know.

2. Focus on the effort — not the outcome. With any creative endeavour at some point what we made leaves our hands. We can’t let what happens after that point have any sway over us. We need to remember famous coach John Wooden’s advice: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Doing your best is what matters. Focus on that. External rewards are just extra.

3. Choose purpose over passion. Passion runs hot and burns out, while people with purpose — think of it as passion combined with reason — are more dedicated and have control over their direction. Christopher McCandless was passionate when he went “into the wild” but it didn’t work well, right? The inventor of the Segway was passionate. Better to have clear-headed purpose.

4. Shun the comfort of talking and face the work. “Void,” Marlon Brando once said, “is terrifying to most people.” We talk endlessly on social media getting validation and attention with fake internet points avoiding the uncertainty of doing the difficult and frightening work required of any creative endeavour. As creatives we need to shut up and get to work. To face the void — despite the pain of doing so.

5. Kill your pride before you lose your head. “Whom the gods wish to destroy,” Cyril Connolly wrote, “they first call promising.” You cannot let early pride lead you astray. You must remind yourself every day how much work is left to be done, not how much you have done. You must remember that humility is the antidote to pride.

6. Stop telling yourself a story — there is no grand narrative. When you achieve any sort of success you might think that success in the future is just the natural and expected next part of the story. This is a straightforward path to failure — by getting too cocky and overconfident. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, reminds himself that there was “no aha moment” for his billion-dollar behemoth, no matter what he might read in his own press clippings. Focus on the present moment, not the story.

7. Learn to manage (yourself and others). John DeLorean was a brilliant engineer but a poor manager (of people and himself). One executive described his management style as “chasing colored balloons” — he was constantly distracted and abandoning one project for another. It’s just not enough to be smart or right or a genius. It’s gratifying to be the micromanaging egotistical boss at the center of everything — but that’s not how organizations grow and succeed. That’s not how you can grow as a person either.

8. Know what matters to you and ruthlessly say no to everything else.Pursue what the philosopher Seneca refers to as euthymia — the tranquility of knowing what you are after and not being distracted by others. We accomplish this by having an honest conversation with ourselves and understanding our priorities. And rejecting all the rest. Learning how to say no. First, by saying no to ego which wants it all.

9. Forget credit and recognition. Before Bill Belichick became the four-time Super Bowl–winning head coach of the New England Patriots, he made his way up the ranks of the NFL by doing grunt work and making his superiors look good without getting any credit. When we are starting out in our pursuits we need to make an effort to trade short-term gratification for a long-term payoff. Submit under people who are already successful and learn and absorb everything you can. Forget credit.

10. Connect with nature and the universe at large. Going into nature is a powerful feeling and we need to tap into it as often as possible. Nothing draws us away from it more than material success. Go out there and reconnect with the world. Realize how small you are in relation to everything else. It’s what the French philosopher Pierre Hadot has referred to as the “oceanic feeling.” There is no ego standing beneath the giant redwoods or on the edge of a cliff or next to the crashing waves of the ocean.

11. Choose alive time over dead time. According to author Robert Greene, there are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second. During failure, ego picks dead time. It fights back: I don’t want this. I want ______. I want it my way. It indulges in being angry, aggrieved, heartbroken. Don’t let it — choose alive time instead.

12. Get out of your own head. Writer Anne Lamott knows the dangers of the soundtrack we can play in our heads: “The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is.” That’s what you could be hearing right now. Cut through that haze with courage and live with the tangible and real, no matter how uncomfortable.

13. Let go of control. The poisonous need to control everything and micromanage is usually revealed with success. Ego starts saying: it all must be done my way — even little things, even inconsequential things. The solution is straightforward. A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach. It’s simple, but not easy.

14. Place the mission and purpose above you. During World War II, General George Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan, was practically offered the command of the troops on D-Day. Yet he told President Roosevelt: “The decision is yours, Mr. President; my wishes have nothing to do with the matter.” It came to be that Eisenhower led the invasion and performed with excellence. Marshall put the mission and purpose above himself — an act of selflessness we need to remind ourselves of.

15. When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging. “Act with fortitude and honor,” Alexander Hamilton wrote to a distraught friend in serious trouble of the man’s own making. “If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.” Our ego screams and rattles when it is wounded. We will then do anything to get out of trouble. Stop. Don’t make things worse. Don’t dig yourself further. Make a plan.

16. Don’t be deceived by recognition, money and success — stay sober.Success, money and power can intoxicate. What is required in those moments is sobriety and a refusal to indulge. One look at Angela Merkel, one of the most powerful women on the planet is revealing. She is plain and modest — one writer said that unpretentiousness is Merkel’s main weapon — unlike most world leaders intoxicated with position. Leave self-absorption and obsessing over one’s image for the egotists.

17. Leave your entitlement at the door. Right before he destroyed his own billion-dollar company, Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies, overrode the objections of one of his employees and bragged, “I could put the Ty heart on manure and they’d buy it!” You can see how this manifestation of ego can lead you to success — and how it can lead to downright failure.

18. Choose love. Martin Luther King understood that hate is like an “eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.” Hatred is when ego turns a minor insult into a massive sore and it lashes out. But pause and ask: has hatred and lashing out ever helped anyone with anything? Don’t let it eat at you — choose love. Yes, love. See how much better you feel.

19. Pursue mastery in your chosen craft. When you are pursuing a craft you realize that the better you get, the humbler you are. Because you understand there’s always something you can learn and you are inherently humbled by this fascinating craft or career you’re after. It is hard to get a big head or become egotistical when you’ve decided on that path.

20. Keep an inner scorecard. Just because you won doesn’t mean you deservedto. We need to forget other people’s validation and external markers of success. Warren Buffett has advised keeping an inner scorecard versus the external one. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against.

21. Paranoia creates things to be paranoid about. “He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,” wrote Seneca, who as a political adviser witnessed destructive paranoia at the highest levels. If you let ego think that everyone is out to get you you will seem weak…and then people will really try to take advantage of you. Be strong, confident and forgiving.

22. Always stay a student. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Observe and learn. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged? Do it deliberately. Let it humble you. Remember how the physicist John Wheeler put it, “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

23. No one can degrade you — they degrade themselves. Ego is sensitive about slights, insults and not getting their due. This is a waste of time. After Frederick Douglass was asked to ride in a baggage car because of his race, someone rushed to apologize for this mistreatment. Frederick’s reply? “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”

24. Stop playing the image game — focus on a higher purpose. One of the best strategists of the last century, John Boyd, would ask the promising young acolytes under him: “To be or to do? Which way will you go?” That is, will you choose to fall in love with the image of how success looks like or will you focus on a higher purpose? Will you pick obsessing over your title, number of fans, size of paycheck or on real, tangible accomplishment? You know which way ego wants to go.

25. Focus on the effort — not the results. This is so important it is appearing twice. If you can accept that you control only the effort that goes in and not the results which come out, you will be mastering your ego. All work leaves our hands at some point. Ego wants to control everything — but it cannot control other people or their reactions. Focus on your end of the equation, leave them to theirs. Remember Goethe’s line: “What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.”

How To Be Mindful Of The Ego’s Control

Attention To The Darkness

“It is the nature of the ego to take, and the nature of the spirit to share.” — Proverb

Being mindful of the ego’s control could be the single factor that leads to your salvation.

Alternative medicine advocate and author Deepak Chopra affirmed, “If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”

Many people are asleep to the vice-like grip the ego has and fall victim to it because they are unaware of its influence.

The ego is the wounded and scorned child that poses a threat to a person’s self-esteem. It manipulates you into the belief of separation, which is nothing more than an impulse intended to reinforce its position.

The ego thrives on dividing you from the wholeness of your authentic self and conspires to lure you into its ways.

It is the splintered part of the soul serving to admonish you of your limitations.

The ego takes its power from identifying with the “I” of your being. Every time you affirm, “I am lazy”, “I am hopeless/incompetent”, etc., it reinforces its influence.

When this voice becomes overwhelming, it leads you further away from your soul nature.

The ego undertakes to prove your unworthiness by bringing attention to the damaged aspects of your character.

“All ego really is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are,” states Buddhist nun Pema Chodron.

You are complete beings, embodied in the duality of light and dark — yin and yang. The ego, however, prefers to bring attention to the darkness by reminding you of the concealed self, replete with faults and vulnerabilities. However, this is not who you are but merely a snapshot of your being.

It seeks to be heard to ensure its survival, since focusing attention on your soul nature diminishes the ego.

The Authentic Self

“Give up all bad qualities in you, banish the ego and develop the spirit of surrender. You will then experience Bliss.” — Sri Sathya Sai Baba

To find harmony, acknowledge your unconscious or suppressed thoughts and transform them into empowering states.

Author Mario Martinez states in The MindBody Code, “The solution to all your impasses and suffering is not to kill your ego or detach from your negative emotions. You need your ego to deal with the practical aspects of life, and all emotions are essential biological information that tells you how your body is responding to the interpretations you make about your circumstances.”

To draw attention to your authentic self, realise that underneath your tangled story lies your core essence which is love and light. For the ego is merely a facade masquerading as a Venetian mask to conceal the real self.

Consider this, why do you identify with the egoic voice instead of the expression of the soul? Maybe it reminds you of the parent who criticised you, in contrast to the nurturing parent. Naturally, you are drawn to the negative parent to appease them and justify your self-worth.

The ego is the worn-out script that plays out in your head to convince you of your unworthiness. This is coupled with recalling negative thoughts that have you believe you are less than perfect.

To transform the voice of the ego, become conscious of your limiting self-talk and examine your hurt and pain for what it actually is — a smoke screen.

Undertake this by going into silence which allows you to connect with the stillness of the inner self. Meditation practice is an effective means to connect with your soul, because it drowns out the mental chatter in place of connecting with your authentic self.

“The authentic self will never lead you to believe that you have anything to defend, prove, or be puffed up about, because your true identity is not determined by what your ego or the world has to say about you,” affirms author Dennis Merritt Jones.

Regretfully, many people distract themselves with extraneous noise that isolates them from associating with their core self. If they retreat into silence long enough, they discover beneath their thoughts is someone they don’t like.

The Principle Of Wholeness

“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” ― Chögyam Trungpa

There is a vast undercurrent of longing to be noticed within. This pure awareness is known when you shift your attention away from incessant thoughts and focus on the stillness.

It was during meditation practice one day that I reached deep into my being and experienced this breath-taking stillness. I sensed returning home and yearned to associate with this pure silence. The clue to developing a relationship with this aspect of your being is to turn down the narrative of the egoic voice.

You shouldn’t try to destroy the ego, rather integrate it into the wholeness of your being so you are not a servant to it.

Meditation teacher and psychotherapist Loch Kelly validates this position in his book, Shift into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness. “What we let go of is our ego-identification. Our ego functions and ego personality become less stressed, defensive, and constricted; ego-identification is no longer experienced as the centre of who we are.”

Avoid supporting the ego’s view of separateness, and instead highlight the principle of wholeness.

Disempowering thoughts linked to fear is your soul calling you to reconnect with your authentic nature. Accordingly, fear is a signpost pointing you to the quietness within.

So, when a disempowering thought appears, simply notice it through pure awareness. I am reminded of the phrase my six-year-old nephew learned at kindergarten — “stop, look and listen.”

So, stop what you are doing, look within and listen attentively to the voice calling your attention. As you practice this, the less the ego will reinforce its control, so in time it rescinds into the background.

Afterall, if you seek to attain a state of bliss as Deepak Chopra affirms, you must reach beyond the ego while being attentive to its control.

How To Be Happy In Today’s Crazy World: 3 Secrets From Research

how-to-be-happy

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

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Sometimes it feels like the world is actively conspiring against your happiness. Now before you start folding your tin foil hat, let me say that you might not be paranoid…

Right now there are a record number of people on antidepressants. So many that even if you’re not taking antidepressants, well… you still kinda are.

Enough people in Western nations consume — and then excrete — the medications that they’re at detectable levels in the water supply.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Some one in five U.S. adults is taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem; nearly one in four middle-aged women in the United States is taking antidepressants at any given time… You can’t escape it: when scientists test the water supply of Western countries, they always find it is laced with antidepressants, because so many of us are taking them and excreting them that they simply can’t be filtered out of the water we drink every day.

For the past few decades we’ve lived under the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in your noggin. And while that is true for some people, more and more research is showing that our dissatisfaction may be due less to a broken brain and more to a broken life.

You don’t see so rapid a surge in cases of depression because our genetics or grey matter changed overnight. The world has shifted in ways that are detrimental to the psychological needs of the human animal. That persistent feeling of vague dissatisfaction may be a normal response to abnormal circumstances. The canary in the coal mine.

So journalist Johann Hari spent three years on a journey of over forty thousand miles conducting more than 200 interviews with social scientists and psychologists to discover what was wrong with the way we live today that was causing such an explosion of unhappiness.

His excellent book is Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions.

What he found was that while our world has become very technologically connected, all the sources of unhappiness stem from a growing disconnection in other areas of our lives.

Let’s find out how to reconnect. And how to live happier lives…

 

Disconnection From Other People

Loneliness is the equivalent of being punched in the face. I mean, literally.

Your stress response to both — the increase in your body’s cortisol level — is the same.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack. It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.

And have no illusions, loneliness is an epidemic in the modern world. A few decades ago, the average US citizen reported having three close friends. Since 2004 the most common answer is…

Zero.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

…social scientists have been asking a cross-section of U.S. citizens a simple question for years: “How many confidants do you have?” They wanted to know how many people you could turn to in a crisis, or when something really good happens to you. When they started doing the study several decades ago, the average number of close friends an American had was three. By 2004, the most common answer was none.

I can already hear some people crowing: “I might be dissatisfied but how could it be due to loneliness? I’m always around people.”

Turns out there’s a difference between being lonely and feeling lonely. This is why someone who works a job surrounded by people and then goes home to a spouse and children, can spend very little time alone — and yet still feel profoundly lonely.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

In his studies, it turned out that feeling lonely was different from simply being alone. Surprisingly, the sensation of loneliness didn’t have much to do with how many people you spoke to every day, or every week. Some of the people in his study who felt most lonely actually talked to lots of people every day. “There’s a relatively low correlation between the objective connections and perceived connections,” he says.

So what do we need to do? To prevent feeling lonely, we must share something with those around us — something meaningful to both you and them. A belief. A cause. An activity. A goal. We need to be “in it together” — not merely together in the middle of a faceless crowd.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

As he researched this, John discovered that there was a missing ingredient to loneliness, and to recovering from it. To end loneliness, you need other people—plus something else. You also need, he explained to me, to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to both of you. You have to be in it together—and “it” can be anything that you both think has meaning and value.

So join a group. Harvard researcher Robert Putnam has studied group activities for decades — everything from bowling leagues to volunteer groups.

Between 1985 and 1994 involvement in community organizations declined by 45%.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Today, people still bowl, but they do it alone. They’re in their own lane, doing their own thing. The collective structure has collapsed. Think about everything else we do to come together—like supporting your kid’s school, say. “In the ten short years between 1985 and 1994” alone, he wrote, “active involvement in community organizations … fell by 45 percent.”

Famed biologist E.O. Wilson once said, “People must belong to a tribe.” Increasingly, we don’t. But you can fix that.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my bestselling book here.)

We all know relationships are critical. But there’s something else the modern world is lacking that’s a lot less obvious but no less important…

 

Disconnection From Values

Your pursue “intrinsic values” when you do something solely because you love it. You pursue “extrinsic values” when you chase money or status. Being a patriotic soldier is intrinsic; being a mercenary is extrinsic.

The lesson from the research is clear: the more extrinsically motivated you are, the more you feel motivated by money or status, the more depressed and anxious you are.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Twenty-two different studies have, in the years since, found that the more materialistic and extrinsically motivated you become, the more depressed you will be. Twelve different studies found that the more materialistic and extrinsically motivated you become, the more anxious you will be. Similar studies, inspired by Tim’s work and using similar techniques, have now been carried out in Britain, Denmark, Germany, India, South Korea, Russia, Romania, Australia, and Canada—and the results, all over the world, keep coming back the same.

I know some people are jumping to say, “Well, I’m not like that!” But, to a degree, we have all become more extrinsically motivated. We all care, to some degree, what others think of us and technology often amplifies this to toxic levels. Facebook and Instagram have become gladiatorial status tournaments to show off how cool our lives are.

But when we’re counting “likes” on social media, we let others control our self-esteem. And that places your own happiness outside your control. Not good.

And even if you win, you lose. Studies show that the achievement of extrinsic goals — the fancy car and the impressive promotion — bring no lasting happiness. None. Meanwhile, when we pursue intrinsic goals like being a better parent or trying to improve our writing skills so our blog posts don’t suck, we feel much happier and less anxious.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

People who achieved their extrinsic goals didn’t experience any increase in day-to-day happiness—none. They spent a huge amount of energy chasing these goals, but when they fulfilled them, they felt the same as they had at the start…. But people who achieved their intrinsic goals did become significantly happier, and less depressed and anxious. You could track the movement. As they worked at it and felt they became (for example) a better friend—not because they wanted anything out of it but because they felt it was a good thing to do—they became more satisfied with life.

You experience “flow” when you’re so involved in something that you lose track of time. You know the old saying: “time flies when you’re having fun.” Flow is a huge contributor to happiness.

And the more focused we are on extrinsic goals like status, the fewer flow states we experience.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

But when Tim studied highly materialistic people, he discovered they experience significantly fewer flow states than the rest of us. Why would that be? He seems to have found an explanation. Imagine if, when Tim was playing the piano every day, he kept thinking: Am I the best piano player in Illinois? Are people going to applaud this performance? Am I going to get paid for this? How much?

So what should we do? Yeah, we all have to pay the bills and achieving a decent level of status is a good thing, but we need to start choosing more activities that serve those intrinsic values.

Spending more time with those we love rather than those who can help us get ahead. More time playing the guitar because it’s fun rather than sharpening our Excel skills to get that promotion.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

“The first thing is for people to ask themselves—Am I setting up my life so I can have a chance of succeeding at my intrinsic values? Am I hanging out with the right people, who are going to make me feel loved, as opposed to making me feel like I made it?”

Spend a little more time with people that make you smile and doing the things that make you smile — simply because they make you smile.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

So you’re connecting with people and connecting with your intrinsic values. Great. What’s another connection we’re getting less and less of that the human animal needs?

Just like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location…

 

Disconnection From Nature

All other things being equal, move closer to nature and you’ll be happier. Move away from nature and you’ll be more depressed.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

…the people who moved to green areas saw a big reduction in depression, and the people who moved away from green areas saw a big increase in depression.

Some might say that’s because rural areas have less crime or less pollution or… Wrong.

If you live in the part of a big city with lots of trees, you get happier. Cart yourself over to the section of the city that’s nothing but concrete and you get sadder.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

They compared deprived inner-city areas that had some green space to very similar deprived inner-city areas without green space. Everything else—like levels of social connections—was the same. But it turned out there was less stress and despair in the greener neighborhood.

We use our big human brains so much that we think we’re machines and forget we’re animals. But we are animals.

Leave the Panda in the forest with his bamboo and he’s happy. Move him to a zoo and he mopes around, feels stressed out and loses all interest in making little Pandas. Humans aren’t all that different.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

“We have been animals that move for a lot longer than we have been animals that talk and convey concepts,” she said to me. “But we still think that depression can be cured by this conceptual layer. I think [the first answer is more] simple. Let’s fix the physiology first. Get out. Move.”

So what do we do? We simply weren’t meant to spend all our time going from cubicle to couch. Feeling happier can be as simple as spending more time in nature.

The research all says that exercise makes us happier. Guess what? When you exercise outdoors the effect is even stronger.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

When scientists have compared people who run on treadmills in the gym with people who run in nature, they found that both see a reduction in depression—but it’s higher for the people who run in nature.

(To learn the best way to motivate yourself to exercise, click here.)

Alright, we’ve learned a lot. We’re going “psychologically Paleo” and getting more of what our ancient physiology needs from the very modern world.

Time to round it all up — and find out why so many of our efforts to be happier often fail…

 

Sum Up

Here’s how to be happy in today’s crazy world:

  • Connect With People: Just being around others isn’t enough. Join groups that you share something with. You need to be “in it together” to hit back when loneliness punches you in the face.
  • Connect With Your Intrinsic Values: More “flow” and fewer selfies. More doing what you love because you love it. Chasing status doesn’t lead to lasting happiness; it puts happiness outside your control.
  • Connect with Nature: Go outside for a reason other than to pick up that box from Amazon.

So what happens when you make a consistent, concerted effort to be happier?

You fail miserably. No joke. Deliberate efforts to be happier do not work… in the US and UK, that is.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

They tracked thousands of people, some of whom had decided to deliberately pursue happiness and some of whom hadn’t. When they compared the results, they found something they had not expected. If you deliberately try to become happy, you will not become happier—if you live in the United States. But if you live in Russia, Japan, or Taiwan, you will become happier.

What’s going on? It’s not that happiness is unachievable or that hard work isn’t rewarded. The issue here is that the US and UK have the most individualistic cultures. And so the efforts people in those countries make are usually individualistic…

But happiness comes from our connections to other people.

And so when we work toward just making ourselves happy as individuals we often fail. But when we work towards the happiness of a group, we usually succeed.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

“The more you think happiness is a social thing, the better off you are,” Brett explained to me, summarizing her findings and reams of other social science.

The modern world promotes a culture of “be yourself.” But if you want to be happy, that isn’t always the best idea.

To find more joy, spend a little less time being you and little more time being us.

TO ACHIEVE – How To Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Worth

How To Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Worth

What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him. — Goethe

Belisarius is one of the greatest yet unknown military generals in all of history. His name has been so obscured and forgotten by history that he makes the under appreciated General George Marshall seem positively famous. At least they named the Marshall Plan after George. As Rome’s highest ranking commander under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Belisarius saved Western civilization on at least three occasions. As Rome collapsed and the seat of the empire moved to Constantinople, Belisarius was the only bright light in a dark time for Christianity.

He won brilliant victories at Dara, Carthage, Naples, Sic­ily, and Constantinople. He saved a cowardly Justinian from a riotous mob. He reclaimed far flung territories and recaptured Rome for the first time since it fell — all before he was 40.

His thanks? He was not given public triumphs. Instead, he was repeatedly placed under suspicion by the paranoid emperor he served. His victories and sacrifices were undone with bad politics. Later, he was relieved of command. His only remaining title was the deliberately humiliating “Commander of the Royal Stable.” Oh, and at the end of his illustrious career, Belisarius was stripped of his wealth, and according to the legendblinded, and forced to beg in the streets to survive.

Historians, scholars, and artists have lamented and argued about this treatment for centuries. Like all fair­ minded people, they’re outraged at the stupidity, the ungratefulness, and injustice that this great and unusual man was subjected to. The one person we don’t hear complaining about any of this? Not at the time, not at the end of his life, not even in private letters: Belisarius himself.

Ironically, as the head of the army he likely could have taken the throne on numerous occasions, though it appears he was never even tempted. While the Emperor Justinian fell prey to all the vices of absolute power — control, paranoia, selfishness, greed — we see none in Belisarius. Belisarius just did his job. He did it well. That was enough for him.

In life, there will be times when we do everything right, perhaps even perfectly. Yet the results will somehow be negative: failure, disrespect, jealousy, or even a resounding yawn from the world.

Depending on what motivates us, this response can be crushing. If ego holds sway, we’ll accept nothing less than full appreciation.

A dangerous attitude because when someone works on a project — whether it’s a book or a business or otherwise — at a certain point, that thing leaves their hands and enters the realm of the world. It is judged, received, and acted on by other people. It stops being something he controls and it depends on them.

Belisarius could win his battles. He could lead his men. He could determine his personal ethics. He could not control whether his work was appreciated or whether it aroused suspicion. He had no ability to control whether a powerful dictator would treat him well.

This reality rings essentially true for everyone in every kind of life. What was so special about Belisarius was that he accepted the bargain. Doing the right thing was enough. Serving his country, his God, and doing his duty faithfully was all that mattered. Any adversity could be endured and any rewards were considered extra.

Which is good, because not only was he often not rewarded for the good he did, he was punished for it. That seems galling at first. Indignation is the reaction we’d have if it happened to us or someone we know. What was his alternative? Should he have done the wrong thing instead?

We are all faced with this same challenge in the pursuit of our own goals: Will we work hard for something that can be taken away from us? Will we invest time and energy even if an outcome is not guaranteed? With the right motives we’re willing to proceed. With ego, we’re not.

It takes humility to admit that we have only minimal control over the rewards for our work and effort — other people’s validation, recognition, rewards.

Think of all the activists who will find that they can only advance their cause so far. The leaders who are assassinated before their work is done. The inventors whose ideas languish “ahead of their time.” According to society’s main metrics, these people were not rewarded for their work. Should they have not done it? Should they not be kind, not work hard, not produce, because there is a chance it wouldn’t be reciprocated? C’mon.

Yet in ego, every one of us has considered doing precisely that. Wanted to say: “Fuck ’em, they don’t appreciate me anyway.”

It’s far better (and more resilient) when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better.

When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self respect. When the effort — not the results, good or bad — is enough.

With ego, this is not nearly sufficient. No, we need to be recognized. We need to be compensated. Especially problematic is the fact that, often, we get that. We are praised, we are paid, and we start to assume that the two things always go together. The “expectation hangover” inevitably ensues.

It calls to mind the encounter Alexander the Great and the famous Cynic philosopher Diogenes. Allegedly, Alexander approached Diogenes, who was lying down, enjoying the summer air, and stood over him and asked what he, the most powerful man in the world, might be able to do for this notoriously poor man. Diogenes could have asked for anything. What he requested was epic: “Stop blocking my sun.” Even two thousand years later we can feel exactly where in the solar plexus that must have hit Alexander, a man who always wanted to prove how important he was. As the author Robert Louis Stevenson later observed about this meeting, “It is a sore thing to have labored along and scaled arduous hilltops, and when all is done, find humanity indifferent to your achievement.”

Well, get ready for it. It will happen. Maybe your parents will never be impressed. Maybe your girlfriend won’t care. Maybe the investor won’t see the numbers. Maybe the audience won’t clap. But we have to be able to push through. We can’t let that be what motivates us.

Belisarius had one last run. He was found innocent of the charges and his honors restored — just in time to save the empire as a white haired old man.

Except no, life is not a fairy tale. He was again wrongly suspected of plotting against the emperor. In the famous Longfellow poem about our poor general, at the end of his life he is impoverished and disabled. Yet he concludes with great strength:

This, too, can bear; — I still Am Belisarius!

You will be unappreciated. You will be sabotaged. You will experience surprising failures. Your expectations will not be met. You will lose. You will fail.

How do you carry on then? How do you take pride in yourself and your work? John Wooden’s advice to his players says it: Change the definition of success. “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” “Ambition,” Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, “means tying your well-being to what other people say or do . . . Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.“ That’s all there needs to be.

Recognition and rewards — those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us. John Kennedy Toole’s great book A Confederacy of Dunces was universally turned down by publishers, news that so broke his heart that he later committed suicide in his car on an empty road in Biloxi, Mississippi. After his death, his mother discovered the book, advocated on its behalf until it was published, and it eventually won the Pulitzer Prize.

Think about that for a second. What changed between those submissions? Nothing. The book was the same. It was equally great when Toole had it in manuscript form and had fought with editors about it as it was when the book was published, sold copies, and won awards. If only he could have realized this, it would have saved him so much heartbreak. He couldn’t, but from his painful example we can at least see how arbitrary many of the breaks in life are.

This is why we can’t let externals determine whether something was worth it or not. It’s on us.

The world is, after all, indifferent to what we humans “want.” If we persist in wanting, in needing, we are simply setting ourselves up for resentment or worse.

Doing the work is enough.

“Busy” Is The Worst Answer You Can Ever Give.

“Busy” is the answer a loser gives. The only thing I feel when people say this to me is pity. It’s a damn shame that we allow such a simple word to screw up our life and guarantee we will never achieve anything meaningful.

People are throwing the busy word around way too much. It’s meaning has become lost.

Busy is not a badge of honor either. It’s a joke.

When people drop the busy word, I think of that horrible Shania Twain song “That don’t impress me much Oh-oo-oh.”

Do you want to sound like a bad 90’s song? Of course not.


Why “busy” is the worst answer you can give.

It’s quite simple: when you say you’re busy you’re really saying to the person you’re directing it to that they’re not important — you’re pretty much making them feel like dirt.

Consider people’s feelings before you use the word busy because it’s not that far away from telling people to “F off mate!” which is what you’re really saying.


Tell the truth.

Often the word busy is an excuse or a lie. Tell the truth instead. People will respect you much more for it.

“Being faced with an opportunity that means nothing to you is okay. Tell the requester the real reason and cheer for them on the sidelines instead”

Also, be quick about it. Don’t tell people your life story or hit them with one of those automatic reply’s that has 1000 words in it and makes you sound like a total ass who is in love with themselves.

Just respond with a couple of sentences and be quick, as well as nice about it.

End of story. Thanks for playing.


Busy sounds cool. Busy is your ego talking.

That’s why people use the word. If you’re not busy, then you must not be cool or doing anything meaningful. “Why aren’t you stressed and doing Yoga” many busy people often think quietly to themselves.

My approach is a lot different. I think if you’re busy and stressed then you’re heading nowhere fast. Busy often means that the quality of your work is crap.


Busy means you are a jack of all trades master of none.

Doing lots of stuff, without focus will translate into zero time. Zero time equals busy.

My question to all the busy people is this: If you’re so busy and have zero time, what are you going to do when the opportunity of a lifetime comes by?

In reality, that’s often what happens. A great opportunity comes knocking at your door — often in disguise — and you say no because you are busy. Stupid.


Busy is a lack of discipline.

There’s that ugly mofo word again. It’s in almost every one of my blog posts. Busy is a choice that comes from someone who lacks discipline.Discipline is doing less so you can eventually experience fulfillment.

Resisting the temptation to say yes to every cold email, every Facebook message, every podcast request, every opportunity to speak in front of an audience, etc. is hard. It takes courage and guts to avoid loading up your calendar with stuff you’ll regret later, that brings you no joy.

Diet takes discipline; the gym takes discipline; business takes discipline; success takes discipline.

Wake up! Rise up!

“Embrace the art of discipline so you can avoid the mirage of busy”


Saying no takes discipline and it stops the busy train wreck.

The answer to all of this busyness talk is the word “no.”

No equals more time.
No equals focus.
No is the antidote to busy.

Say no and follow these rules:

– Be respectful
– Explain why and be honest
– Do so swiftly and don’t drag it out
– Don’t complain about it later like a sook

This advice seems harsh and that’s because it is. The trap of busy is easy to fall into and unless I explain it in harsh terms, you’ll probably dismiss it and go back to being busy. That would be a fail.


Busy means you are not present.

To translate that into psychological terms, being busy is not living in the moment which means you’re living in the future, or the past or both.

The past can make you depressed and the future can make you anxious. Both these outcomes are very common with people that consider themselves busy.

“Once you throw the busy excuse in the bin, you start to find yourself living in the moment more. You have space. You have time. You can do cool stuff. You can high five if that’s your thing (it might be mine — just putting it out there)”


Confessions of a former busy person.

This advice about being busy sounds spot on, doesn’t it? You know why?

I’ll tell you why: you’re hearing the advice from someone who was the ultimate example of busyness.

There were days when I didn’t even have time for a piss I was so busy. I said yes to everything and was paranoid about what people thought of me.

It was this paranoia that drove me to the madness that is busy.

I thought every yes was an opportunity and I didn’t let gut feelings or the way I felt, influence my decision-making ability. Often, I’d say yes and then feel like crap shortly after.

All of the busyness got me nowhere. I became burnt out, pissed off, negative and unproductive.

I thought busyness was being productive and that it would lead to some form of success. It was all a lie. Fast forward five years and I now have empty space, and time to do meaningful work. Win.

You have to stop being so busy. It’s messing with your ability achieve your goals.

There’s Only One Way To Kill The Jealousy That’s Ruining Your Life

I’m a jealous person. I don’t try to be. But it’s there.

Why? I don’t know. I certainly don’t get anything out of it. As Joseph Epstein wrote, “of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.”

Envy eats at me. Even if you’ve been successful — in fact often more so when you’re successful — you’ll still look around at other people and think: “How did they get that?”, “Why don’t I have that?” And then you’re unhappy or resentful or worse, you wish ill on other people.

I wish that I didn’t think those nasty, entitled thoughts. Who does? I find it to be even more embarrassing because when I really think about it, I have pretty much everything I want. But envy follows me like a shadow, as it does for a lot of people.

Last week I was having dinner with James Altucher and we spent a lot of time talking about jealousy. He said he struggles with it too. He asked me what I do about it. I shared an exercise I came up with.

I’ll quote him paraphrasing me, since he put it in better words than I actually did when I tried to explain my thinking.

If you are envious of someone, you can’t just pick one or two things about them. Because it’s their entire history that has got them the one thing you are envious about.

So, he said, PICTURE THAT YOU CAN CHANGE PLACES IN EVERY WAY WITH THEM. But then it’s forever.

He said: Would you do it?

This works because the answer is usually no. The jealousy is real but the logic behind it won’t stand up. I’ve found that this exercise helped me make progress in eradicating the selfish, toxic taste of jealousy and envy (not just for me, but also for people I’ve passed it to). When I feel it coming on, I don’t just accept the emotion as it is, I take it — as Epictetus wisely advises — and say, “Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.”

For instance, let’s say I was feeling jealous towards another author (and every author will admit to do this at one time or another). First, I’d want to think about why. Maybe it’s because they’ve sold a lot more copies than me or their books have gotten more attention. Well, aren’t their books a very different style than yours? Yes. Well, why don’t you write in that style? Are you not capable of doing that? No, I am. I choose not to because I don’t like that style. It’s not what I want to do creatively. OK, well then isn’t it a bit entitled to think you can make that choice and still get the exact same results?

And putting that all aside for a second, do you actually want that person’s life? Do you want to be the person that went into making those books? Do you want to be on the road all the time like that? Do you want to have to be in the space they’re in? Not at all! Don’t you like what you have? Don’t you like who you are?Of course. I feel great. Alright, well ask yourself if it’d be worth trading your life for theirs.

What James and I started doing at dinner was run through people we had felt pangs of jealousy towards, either personally or professionally. He’d name someone whose work he admired and then I’d point out that the guy had a gambling problem.

I named someone who was a well-paid speaker and investor and James told me that the dude cheated on his wife a lot. James picked someone who has a great reputation and has won a lot of awards. I pointed out that despite being a critical darling, the person’s work hadn’t sold well and actually the author was quite frustrated about that.

I mentioned a woman whose work I was a big fan of and then I remembered how many people had told me that she was controlling and mean. We talked about a really successful businessman and then we realized that the guy hated his business and talked about wanting to do something else all the time.

What’s left after you run through this exercise is a couple things. First, you’re reminded that nothing is as clean and simple as you think. Jealousy makes another person’s situation rosier than it is. Second, it’s clear that a lot of what we covet comes at a cost.

Often, we’re aware of this cost (which is why we haven’t pursued it already) and seeing the way that the cost has played out on the people we’re envious of is a good reminder.

Third, we’re able to see something we often miss: that we have it pretty good and even though our eyes may wander, in fact, if forced to choose, we’d stay put.

There is another part of envy that I think we missed — something that has helped me more philosophically than practically. We forget that it can be a two way street.

From the outside, we see how well someone might be doing or what awesome stuff they have and all we think is: I want that. We don’t think: “Do they like what they have?” We don’t think about what they want.

EGO IS THE ENEMY

There is a sad story I write in Ego is the Enemy about one of my heroes, Ulysses S. Grant. After his dysfunctional presidency, Grant partnered with his son and a dishonest investor named Ferdinand Ward to create a Wall Street brokerage. Grant bankrupted himself in the pursuit of riches he didn’t even need. His friend General Sherman noted the unfortunate irony — Grant had lost everything in an attempt to “rival the millionaires, who would have given their all to have won any of his battles.”

All Grant could think about was what other people had and in the process lost sight of how much more impressive what he already had was — comically so. There are lots of millionaires. Most of them are forgettable. There are very few Ulysses S. Grants. Yet he wrecked his life — wasted the golden years of his life — thinking if only I could be more like them.

I’ve done this. You’ve done this. We’ve tried to chase what other people have, we’ve felt inferior because we don’t have it. Have we ever stopped to think: “Are those people happy with what they have?”, “What if what I have is better?”, “Could they actually be jealous of me?”

Or maybe neither of you have it right! There’s a scene in one of my favorite Lawrence Block novels, Grifter’s Game, where Joe Marlin is having an affair with a beautiful woman. Then he thinks of her going back to her husband and gets angry and envious.

And then he realizes, oh wait, if the husband ever found out about the affair, he’d be justifiably angry and envious too. “It always works that way,” he says. Though really they could both benefit to question why they are with this awful woman in the first place. In fact, she’s manipulating both of them, using that envy to her own advantage. Neither realizes the truth until it’s far too late.

I can’t say that this exercise is flawless or that it magically cured me of my jealousy. It’s not supposed to. It’s an exercise — a tool to use when envy appears. Do I have to use it more than I like? Absolutely. But it’s far better than being under envy’s delusive, destructive sway.

And there’s one other benefit of running through this process — of walking through whether you’d trade what you have for some random thing that’s turned you green with jealousy: Appreciation.

Gratitude.

You have it good — better than you know. It’s only when you forget that, that you begin to covet. But when you remember, when you understand the true value of all that you possess — and realize even that people might actually resent you for it — that’s when happiness and contentment are possible.