AR – Action Required

ciak-si-gira-54c4349d-877b-4eb1-9a87-a2d30bdb3d7b

I used to think that I only needed to know a little more to make a difference. Years passed by, and I feel I’ve missed something. Often enough, I haven’t been able to put that into action.

Who’s to blame? No one. No one could set the right path for me. No one but me.

While committing myself to change for the better, two major frames would define how I’ll do it.

Incremental growth is day-to-day business, it is easy to reason with it. Time-lapses showed everything from how a plant grows to how a storm forms and starts to damp the grass. Incremental growth is decimals over numbers. Incremental growth is knowing your best friend since you were kids, meeting each other day in, day out. Incremental growth is constantly checking into your bank account, and if you’re brave enough, you’ll know it will raise.

Sometimes though, we are required to press the switch.

We have to go from 0 to 1.

At that point, factual knowledge won’t help at all. It will actually put even more pressure, trying to extend decision making until momentum is lost. And it won’t come back.

I actually feel a little disappointed to write about this. It risks to add up more information than you need to know. It risks to sink you into looking for other answers and compare them, hoping to pull out an even smarter decision. This form of naive realism has nothing to do with better connecting the dots – it is actually a way to subtly self-delude yourself.

Whenever I witness a shrinkage of time between thinking and action, I consider myself to succeed. Chances are, something would click inside your head too. Just go after that click until the next one comes to bother you. No matter if it tells you to do the opposite. Conditions are always changing. Assuming to have the right key is a shortcut would lead you nowhere.

Pursuing that click over and over, just reminding myself of the previous one’s quality, is what keeps me alive and ever changing.

See that One in every Zero you used to look at.


Photo Credits: Ewa.P

“I’ll tell you a story”

Cantastorie-Mario-Incudine

Sometimes I feel I will never be ready to publish that blog post. Until I do it within a few minutes. Sometimes it seems something is always missing. I tell myself to wait until I will be able to fill the gap. Until I will be able to tell the whole story. Until I would know how to close the circle.

Yes, we need to listen a good story: there is a beginning, some troubles to go through, waiting for its finale. We are happy if the end is happy. Sad conclusions awaken relief – at least the story has come to the end.

What if we expose ourselves to life’s machine-gun fire? What if there was no beginning, no end –  and momentum keeps rushing, we grasping its back?


 

Photo Credits: Voci di Città

Feeling over the bump

Obstacle

 

If you were asking for my bucket of core beliefs, I wouldn’t hesitate to name this: self-education.

 

This week I’ve gone through some articles about building a real-world MBA. That would mean having several grands to play with. Here’s what I have: no money, but plenty of time. Consider to gather the best techniques to 10x the output, and time can really turn into the most valuable resource.

 

Without a proper training on how money are made, risks of breaking down somewhen along the path are high. Especially if you’ve been relying on someone else to deliver you the paycheck. It’s been quite hard to be sincerely interested in the subject without feeling the emotional pain of leaving social issues apart and creeping in selfishly guilty sentiment. Everyone agrees that we have to make a living, but the risk is to settle on average livings.

 

Not to say average is bad – most of mankind stands in the middle of the Bell curve, when considering traditional measures of success and performance. Although I feel that paychecks affect the way we consider each other much more than other metrics. Nothing could kill improvement more than splitting personal rewards and social issues. Everyone’s well-being has to be nourished to enhance the whole community. I suggest to address our healthy dissatisfaction elsewhere.

 

Once I’ve understood that money is a function of the benefit I’m able to deliver, there was nothing more to complain about. I find it extremely powerful! Most of variables relies within my ability to learn, ask help to the right people, define who I’ll be able to help best, and make it happen. There really is no excuse to give up trying, unless you’re willing to go elsewhere.

 

Figure out all that is never simple. Here’s a sample of how far my mind ran when faced with the problem of making things happen.

 

“I’m not succeeding, therefore I’m not consistent enough.”

“Yeah. I’ve gotta choose something to get started.”

“But I don’t want  my view to narrow! Creativity relies in unexpected connections between unrelated ideas and sparks of serendipity!”

“Sure enough, serendipity might happen, but is not a rule.”

“In my opinion, genuine curiosity should arise within, not being forced by external conditions.”

“Creativity needs discipline and constraints to flourish.”

“At the very end, it’s all a matter of luck. Should I really push myself so hard?”

“I won’t settle.”

“Working hard on the wrong thing is not going to take me anywhere.”

 

I’m sure you see the madness of all this.

 

I also hope it’s a shared illness.

 

The fact is nothing yet is settled. And I like to declare it.

 

The most utopian goals you set, the most pragmatic you need to be to make them happen. I’ll rewire my brain circuits as often as possible with this heaven-sent insight.

I’m testing a strict habit to keep me on track. I’ll elaborate on that as soon as I’ll gather some consistent data.

 

If your goals are ambitious and crazy enough, even failure will be a pretty good achievement.

Values takeover

Could businesses actively influence political affairs?

Forget about bribes and college friendships.

States survive protecting people who live within a certain place. Their distinctive attribute is to be limited by physical borders.

Enterprises consist of people who share an idea, however messy it might be. It shall be stated in the corporate mission, either conveyed through the culture. It should make employees stick around for a while.

In ancient times, kings moved their armies and conquered the masses. Nowadays, CEOs put their best effort into building dreamlike space crafts to draw the talented crowd.

People gather around powerful ideas. Those which enlarge match the deepest needs of freedom and expression.

Politically skeptical, I believe corporations can have a large impact on those we care about. If Google implemented a policy that provided extra payments to same-sex couples to cover the additional income tax imposed by the US government, while heterosexual married couples do not have to pay that – why is anyone waiting for the government to fix any problem?

Politicians are no longer uniquely responsible for meeting our needs. Business gives plenty of room to grow new solutions.

What could you do for the people you care about?

Climbing the mountain of a wholehearted life

Every time I recognise I should “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time“, linking ideas together becomes quite scary. I don’t know how to fit the urgency of instantaneous, meaningful expression with the long, though building process any great ideal lays its foundation upon.

I’m constantly confronting with “the only thing I could bring to the world”, without deceiving myself of being special, somehow different and entitled, rather than simply me.

I came up to define storytelling as the greatest way to pursue value expression without telling anyone what to do or not to do. It became the milestone of my authorial project. “It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator” – what the former lacks, is the vulnerability the latter needs in order to express his feelings.

mountain-climbers-2Today, I decided a little chapter had to be written. Being lost and torn are no less valuable feelings than the praised ones.

Aware of the fact that “The myth of our potential can make of our lives a perpetual falling-short, a continual and continuing loss, a sustained and sometimes sustaining rage“, being able to cope with failure “begins with the idea that the best way to deal with a feeling is to realize that it’s yours“. Being curious about it it’s the simplest, yet less obvious step to elaborate complex emotional states.

Climbing the mountain of a wholehearted life is at the very beginning – maybe, it will always be. I should never forget that those simple, first steps are nothing less than the last mile.

I can’t get no…satisssfaction.

I’d like to thank all those little kids who made it through the Stanford marshmallow experiment. Delayed gratification has become so juicy – every time I think of it, I drool like a pavlovian dog.

It was tough, though. Think of that kid who had to stop himself from taking the candy. Would you have done the same? That is why I’m so fond of them, and of whom made the experiment happen. I’m going to repeat last Seth Godin’s Keynote, because this message can’t ever be sufficiently underlined:

To eat one marshmallow or two marshmallows?

Those who made it through successfully, kept these two ideas in their head at the same time.

When struggling to make anything happen, it all comes to the same issue: It might work, it might not work. The only way to do something new, is to keep both of those ideas at the same time.

It is all about creating a personal, brand-new blend of the original koan that drives us crazy. It is not easy. But we keep doing it.

Meditation plays a major role in developing such a mindset. It teaches you how to bear with multiple thoughts, while the mind is running all over the places like a crazy monkey. They call it presence, dude. Because at the very end, it is all a matter of attitude.

[get the rhyme]

 

Personal Development, Ph. D.

Passion. Rejection. Awe. It is not a medieval love affair. It is a story about me and science. Holy teen ages.

While studying in Russia, the self-made weekly schedule almost looked like this: 4hours math, 7hours physics, 3hours chemistry. Mates didn’t call me Stephen. Scientific subjects were easier to understand due to latin terminology, and this is the main reason I took these classes so frequently. But I liked them very much. It was fascinating: Abstract thinking had to reason with physical evidence.

Once I came back home, I got in touch with the local hippy, willing-to-be-holistic community. They talked about quantum physics as a way to hack the traditional thinking. That which leaved no space for miracles. Woo woo, you might yell. At that time I was hungry to delve into that hopeful worldview.

Hunger kept me alive. Yes, I proudly wore my pink glasses. People kept asking a ton of grounded objections: Why isn’t alternative medicine healing everybody? How is that scientific community did not accept some supposedly “revolutionary discoveries”? I couldn’t ignore them.

I got stuck for a while. Folks I hung out with were beautiful, yet regrettably undertrained at critical thinking. I could not reject them, for I got acquainted enough with mystery to understand that something had to be solved. I stepped away into the unknown, looking for a light to switch on.

One day, an NPR post shared by the stunning Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe hit my FB timeline. I was relieved and not alone. I met Marcelo Gleiser.

It’s as if scientific issues are simply matters of opinion — and not the product of a very thorough process of consensus-building among technically trained people.

While visiting the dentist during the yearly check-up, it is more likely to talk about the next Armageddon, rather than teething business. Why is that?

That’s what’s happening, a drive toward a subjective take on science — the polar opposite of what science stands for: A way of extracting universal truths about the natural world through a detailed process of observation and data analysis.

Things are pretty messy out there. Scientists tirelessly discuss about inductive and deductive reasoning. Not to say that someone considers science a retirement-ready idea. Nevertheless, scientists fight in their own field. Dope.

The article further quotes George Johnson to complete the picture:

“Viewed from afar, the world seems almost on the brink of conceding that there are no truths, only competing ideologies — narratives fighting narratives. In this epistemological warfare, those with the most power are accused of imposing their version of reality — the “dominant paradigm” — on the rest, leaving the weaker to fight back with formulations of their own. Everything becomes a version.”

It sounds like economics took control over epistemology. And it could be history as well: as Max Planck once said, “New scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”.

What about science?


 

Evidence. I desperately looked for it while drowning in uncertainty. And if I tried to somehow handle bigger problems, I knew what I had to wait for: overconfidence either panic. I’m particularly fond of the scientific method, because it offers a choice.

Storytelling is very compelling to me, and I wouldn’t mistake its effectiveness with critical reasoning’s. The former is the final output, the latter provides it with a proper structure. To me, the more accurate is critical thinking, the more power a speech could deliver.

True science, as well as true religion, is a great example of humbleness. Certainty has never set anyone free, nor satisfied. Jesuit Father and astronomer George Coyne wisely reminded me that

Discoveries lead to further ignorance.

Nevertheless, Marcelo Gleiser sets the limits of scientific knowledge:

Scientific certainty depends on the range of applicability of a given theory. If it is being applied within its range of validity, we can trust it as the best approximation to the truth.

That “range of applicability” is the creative element that connects the subjective take of the world with a broader one.

Problems need a switch in subjective paradigm to be effectively solved. The idea floats in the air, until someone gets to prove it. A creative approach is built upon novelty and usefulness, which means that a new combination of datas and ideas have to match a validating standard of approval.

A scientist might find something new in the datas, whether in the literature that served him to shift his knowledge. To make the leap, he has to state something that has never been said before. That becomes plausible when it matches an independent set of criteria.

After Karl Popper introduced the notion of falsifiability, science revealed its undeniable kin with philosophy. To him, truth was something to eventually attain, rather than something to own. He spread experimentation as a negative method, rather than a positive one. Experiments remind us that a given theory is temporarily fallacy-free, not a solid truth to rely upon.

To Sam Harris, science is embraced when adhering to the highest standards of logic and evidence. Religion hits

 when a person’s commitment to evidence and logic grows dangerously thin or simply snaps under the burden of fear, wishful thinking, tribalism, or ecstasy.

Marcelo Gleiser gets deeper into that dangerous intersection, nurtured by an illogical collection of science and religion:

The scientific impulse to unify is crypto-religious. […] To search for simplicity is essential to what scientists do. It’s what I do. There are essential organizing principles in nature, and the laws we find are excellent ways to describe them. But the laws are many, not one.

That is just the tip of the iceberg, the major misconception ever prevented us from a better understanding of who we are. Sam Harris delightfully explores the boundaries of consciousness and conceptual thinking, blending Krishnamurti’s radical view with the unstoppable force of scientific progress:

Even if one thinks the human mind is entirely the product of physics, the reality of consciousness becomes no less wondrous, and the difference between happiness and suffering no less important. Nor does such a view suggest that we’ll ever find the emergence of mind from matter fully intelligible; consciousness may always seem like a miracle. In philosophical circles, this is known as “the hard problem of consciousness” — some of us agree that this problem exists, some of us don’t. Should consciousness prove conceptually irreducible, remaining the mysterious ground for all we can conceivably experience or value, the rest of the scientific worldview would remain perfectly intact.

See how the intangible concept of soul and the ever-changing identity process are marvellously merged by Maria Popova in the previous post.

 

Identity

Expression is a final act. Everything that has ever been thought comes to somehow impact the world. I just had some insights about the way I do it and…I’d like to express them.
I’ve been noticing that I too often speak as if I were a broadcaster, when I’m actually advising myself out loud. I say what I need to be told. I remember of an awful period, when a sort of cosmic boredom coexisted with a resolute mystic pursuit. Mystic traditions often point to the “Ego” as the source of all sufferings. I followed their advice literally. “I’d never say ‘me’ again. I’d rather set myself at the bottom of every conversation, and avoid to take any position.” That actually was deep shame. Shame came from that spring when I fell in love, and I suddenly, miserably got turned down. Shame came from the money I took away from my parents to chase my dreams, without fulfilling them and – even worse – no idea about what went wrong. I was so afraid of speaking for myself, that I’d stammered out “Alessandro, you’ve got to appreciate this offered supper”.
In the spare time, I used to go for a stroll in the woods. As my self-lead talk unfolded, I sometimes performed the disciple, sometimes the master. Inspiration came to me. The Muse visited my body. I had nothing to do but listening to her through my own mouth. I had nothing to do but believing instead to be the Muse. Upanishads affected me – I could be everything. There was no heterodoxy. I placed myself in the middle, swinging between the two, depending on how I felt.

As a blogger, I prefer to talk for myself. Previous post though were filled with “you should” and “you shouldn’t”, an hardwired storytelling I’ve adopted from the ton of self-help books I’ve been through. They are plenty of should and shouldn’t, of dos and don’ts. God bless them, they helped me. Meanwhile, I became to dislike the mechanism that runs them.

What fascinates me the most nowadays are people who tell stories. I like people who show up and humbly talk about themselves. No bullet points, no underlining. They suggest there’s nothing more important but our shared human condition. Topics may seem interesting or boring, but that is due to me alone.

One of those people is Maria Popova. Her one-woman labour of love inspires me to write, to show up, to consider my blog a recording of the process of arrival into who I am. A beautifully crafted piece of art that I relish listening to is OnBeing. What a blast is their conversation on the podcast! Maria Popova delightfully explains the journey it took her to label “we never see the world as it is” as emboldening statement, not dreadful anymore.

I think we never see the world exactly as it is. We see it as we hope it will be or we fear it might be. And we spend our lives going through a sort of modified stages of grief about that realization. And we deny it, and then we argue with it, and we despair over it. But eventually — and this is my belief — that we come to see it, not is despairing, but as vitalizing.

We never see the world exactly as it is because we are how the world is. Was it — I think it was William James who said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to, and only those things which I notice shaped my mind.” And so in choosing how we are in the world, we shape our experience of that world, our contribution to it. We shape our world, our inner world, our outer world, which is really the only one we’ll ever know. And to me, that’s the substance of the spiritual journey. And that’s not an exasperating idea but an infinitely emboldening one. And it’s taken me many years to come to that without resistance.

She then resumes in a few crystal-clear words the identity issue I’ve been struggling with for years. Be or not to be?

We are a collage of our interests, our influences, our inspirations, all the fragmentary impressions we’ve collected by being alive and awake to the world. Who we are is simply a finely-curated catalogue of those.

It is beautiful and powerful that we as mankind pushed our sense of identity so far. That description captures a tangible outlook of who we experience to be from a higher prospective.

To confuse the Absolute with a more integrated feeling of who I am is a major deception I’ve been facing with along the journey. I’ve often embraced the powerful myth of “Unity”, which has never to be accepted as a destination, rather a mere process. Popova hits the target with the following:

I find, over and over, that the fullest people — the people most whole and most alive — are those unafraid and unashamed of the soul. And the soul is never an assemblage of fragments, and it always is.

These people are mind-boggling. Their example is the most powerful tool to inspire change. “You should” statements drive a ridiculously little share of long-term changes. They might be the kick somebody needs to get started. But unless that turns into a personal, well-built reasoning, it would lead nowhere. The former wrongly assumes that one’s worldview should be others’ as well. The latter shares the journey which everyone has been through, leaving no simple, easy-to-do answers on the table. I’m particularly skeptical about the impact of any to-do list. When it comes to personal issues, even a friend’s piece of advice could miss the point. How could a stranger’s one be deeply successful? Respecting someone’s authority alone would give a short-term satisfaction. A long-term one requires to be a good friend of ourselves.

To share stories with people who act like there is no better, nor worse place to be. That is something meaningful. I’ll pay attention to shared conversations and stories over ex-machina, commencement-dressed speeches. I want to avoid the easy how-to-do approach, in order to embrace the how-to-be.

The War of Art – An Ego review

Ego. Short word. Major depletion.

“Ego is a shame”. “I’ll tell you how little and dirty you are by the number of times you name yourself.” Hellz yes. “Ego is the cause of all your sufferings”.

I had a tough time with my ego. Everything seemed to be wrong with him. I housed every deadly weapon I could use against him.  All the self-help literature I’ve been through rejected it as a plague.

At that time, no tangible options were left but to fight against myself. Resistance increased, until I felt paralyzed. No thoughts were allowed to knock at my mind. No person was worthy to talk to. There was no possible way to salvation, except silence. It had a name. I’ve ignorantly labeled it Asparsa Yoga.

I set up everything by myself. I marched toward an inspiring future, envisioned from the Saints I was following. I’ve never felt so unhappy and alone.

After I met Buddhism, the practice eased a bit. “Sit with the enemy and have a cup of tea. You’ll discover it is not so bad”. It worked.

I remember how catholics stared at me while reading Feeding Your Demons. And yet the message was vital: I had the power to heal my worst and most hated parts by giving them full attention.

41kTkwxjOKL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Steven Pressfiled is very rude with Ego.

We demolish the Ego to get to the Self.

Not to be overwhelmed by fear, these words might be useful. But I do not consider them a cheerful way to better understand who I am. Pressfield describes the Ego as if it were the worst of our enemies.

Ego believes

  1. Death is real.
  2. Time and space are real.
  3. Every individual is different and separate from every other.
  4. The predominant impulse of life is self-preservation.
  5. There is no God.

He enumerates Self principles as well:

  1. Death is an illusion.
  2. Time and space are illusions.
  3. All beings are one.
  4. The supreme emotion is love.
  5. God is all there is.

I believe death and birth lose any key role once we experience the flow. Sometimes ago, I pretended to live entirely in the world of Ideas. Time and space weren’t real to me. Actually, I was wandering like a homeless. After a 35 days fasting, I very much appreciated that there was something solid to swallow.

I believe Ego is just the most scared part of us. He needs compassion alongside with incitement. We don’t demolish him to get to the Self. We encourage him to flourish, to become the Self he’s already. Ego is part of us. “How are you?” – that is how the Ego feels. Because “All beings are one”. If I hurt my Ego, I hurt myself.

Self-preservation or love? Atheism or divine service? Todo Nada. Todo Nada.


 

I can’t describe who I am. There is no bottom line, and there shouldn’t be one. It is anyhow crucial to set some milestones along the journey. Being someone who deals with artistry, Pressfield’s work is still a masterful piece of advice:

The professional [artist] identifies with her consciousness and her will, not with the matter that her consciousness and will manipulate to serve her art.

To believe in geniuses and Muses is very useful to separate who I am from what I do. I like to consider myself a channel. The Muse inhabits me and acts through my hands, speaks through my mouth. Doing doesn’t belong to me. Letter H is a suitable symbol of the human condition. It defines us as a bridge between two dimensions. We are not the origin, nor the ending.

Words are so feeble, though. There is a superhuman strain to go further. When Upanishads assert “You become what you think” – it is all true. It happens at that very moment.

I’d leave you with one thought.

_

FOMO and books

It’s been a little while since myself and stressful thoughts signed an agreement: to become friends. Umberto Eco’s ode to unread books made me feel another footstep has been done on the journey.

I looked at my little library. Well, I told myself, I am 23 and I have not that much of unfinished books on the shelf. Now, I’d try to appreciate unread books, they would be a kind reminder of how little I know, and how much there still is to go. Tsundoku on the bedside table is even pretty; piles are an iridescent, ever-changing art statue. Colours and sizes mix together, and I’m a delighted kid when it comes the time to adjust their position.

167143911-2

Stress is not so easy to handle when it comes to my Evernote. Books to read and articles to be reviewed are much cheaper to collect. Old interests cross the new ones, and it is hard to figure out whether dynamism is forward motion or resistance, an escape into the storming sea of limitless knowledge. I feel a deep need to track my thoughts, to avoid the fear of facing arduous tasks. At the same time, I should leave enough room for new thoughts to grow, in a low-pressure environment.

A stressful approach to reading relates with FOMO (read: fear of missing out) as well. FOMO testing sites highlight how vast the disorder might be. I took the test – high risk profile was shown. Wow. At a relatively young age, I consume myself on books as the best way to explore the world. Choosing became stressful when I despaired of finding my way. Pathfinding is what makes wandering tiresome. I feel tension when I do anything that is rationally relevant to my future. That tension is fostered by every choice I think I should have spent more attention at, which has seemingly led me to unpleasant conditions.

 

There is another odd pleasure in examining unread books – thinking at them as part of my unlived lives. Unlived lives make us significant just as lived lives do. Alessandro Bergonzoni marvelously recognizes a lack of beauty as the main reason for terrible prisons; a lack of tenderness as the rich soil for rapes (video excerpt). When I place myself to look for answers, I know they’ll come. I never thought unlived lives could be a source as well.

 

Thinking of choices, “What Pet Should I Get?” beautiful review by the ever inspiring Maria Popova reminded me that

[…] in the face of life’s dilemmas, there is often no right or wrong choice — what matters is only that we do choose, that we make up our minds and march forward, for nothing dulls the little time we have more surely than the paralysis of indecision.

Being in a sense of flow can’t be separated from stillness. Constant motion requires something stable to be observed from. Stillness relates to consciousness. Motion to life.

In chess, it is called Zugzwang; when the only viable move – it is not to move.

from Mr. Nobody.

 


Complement it with thought-provoking insights on pathfinding.

Resistance

Warning. This post was born out of a burning desire, when an endless overflow of words began to fill the blanks in The War of Art. It has been like assisting to the re-birth of the Phoenix.


 

IChing was the first book that made me seriously think of persistence as the mother of skills, way before Anthony Robbins made it even more persuasive through his Money: Master the Game book. Money is convincing. But a 600+ pages book filled with crazy-Confucian-practical philosophy, studied while hermiting at Pasubio Moutains, was impressive as hell. Dear Steven Pressfiled, I love the way you remind me of persistence. Show up. Show up. Show up.

Resistance though hit me once again. I spent days reading articles that failed to light me on fire. Steven Pressfield’s book was winking at me day and night. I was used to think that miracles kick in mysteriously, that there’s no way to grasp what’s going on in the backstage. Waiting for things to happen, though, is a pain in the ass. You need to go out and catch them (do you understand any Italian? I strongly recommend you to check this out).

 

The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not to come, whatever they like.

This is Zen, isn’t it? Consistence, building up a process is the cure. Given you’re going to do your job, whatever it is meant to be, you earn the power to be at peace. Remember that you’re never done. When low satisfaction strikes, you look back to seek what could have been done better. But there is no point arguing with the mirror. If you did your job, if you craved and struggled to set up a masterful process and you keep up with it, there is no need to look back, neither forward. Don’t forget that

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.

You know you’re going to repeat that process over and over. That is what you were meant to be. That’s what you are here for.

 

We apparently overestimate the likelihood of a short-term change, and underestimate the long-term one. Nevertheless, taking action might bother those around you. They could accuse you not being the person you were. You’ve shifted gears. I recently had to deal with that, and eventually leave the people I was living with. It is so obvious and even desirable not to be the person you used to be. Change happens. Some might like it, some won’t. I learned that true friends will incite me to move on. But at the very end, it comes to no one but me to judge whether I like it ot not.

 

You’re no closer to taking action than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

Sometimes I do think Resistance isn’t real, as far as I consider duality itself the major deception. Pressfield boosts it with the following statement:

Resistance has no strength on its own. […] We feed it with power by our fear of it.

I laze, when I think I own it. Many philosophies try to guide us to that very juice. We own what we experience, when we come to believe that we are the source of perception. But reality is, we usually don’t live that way. That is the point where self-dramatization and victimhood come in, just to name a few. Reality is, we’ve got to keep moving to be alive.

Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance.

That is a very old story. Once upon a time, God created Light and Darkness, right? Most of the time, we forget that both of them are God’s creations. When we seek for pain-free means we mistakenly acknowledge that Light is God, and there’s no room for Darkness. You know what the real magic is? It doesn’t work! We would inevitably face awful moments, and they’ll get worse and worse if we don’t allow them to be.

 

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are.

Sometimes, we say what we need to be told.

 

We get ourselves in trouble because it’s a cheap way to get attention.

Being in trouble is appealing. But a working artist cannot allow himself to be in trouble, because it prevents himself to get the shit done. Want to get out of troubles? Get your homework done. Still can’t figure out what your homework is? That is Resistance in action. Go and clear that out – it’s the major part of the homework itself.

 

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery.

Freedom is troublesome. We’ve spent millions of years trying to get out of the tribal mindset, striving to act indipendently from one another. Freedom is a mess. Rebellion took us to places we’ve never lived before. Artists feel the importance to look forward and not to be stuck in the past. Artists feel that best stories are yet to be written, and beware of bending over to study sacred texts.

Self-mastery doesn’t have limits, and freedom has the same promising outlook. The major challenge is to fit them in a limited, earthly existence.

 

 

procrastination

Not to beat around the bush but…to add anything further might be worthless. Nevertheless, it is useful to notice how healing and resistance become allies. How many times have you turn down accomplishing that stressful important task because you didn’t feel well enough?

The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free.

Not to mention that, doing your homework is the way to heal yourself effectively, and stay there.

 

The chapter was ending. I thought I was done. But Pressfield kicked in with hilarious genius:

Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed. It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.

At death’s door, I bet I’d appreciate it even more.

 

Now that you’ve get prepared, it is the time to face the Rule of thumb:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

It reminds me of that old story. We somehow tend to believe that the opposite of love is hate. Artists know that what kills the most is indifference. Leave out for a moment the concept of “soul’s evolution” – it might be something you’re not interested in. The point is that if anything meant nothing to us, there would be no Resistance at all. You should find a framework to dissect and understand emotional feelings, otherwise they’ll just own you. Rational thinking bridges the gap between ever ending fear and enthusiasm. And be careful rationalization not to take over, preventing you to see your fears and act upon them.

Tao is a never-ending game.

 


Complement the reading with  The Only Way to Stop Stressing About a Task Is to Finally Start It and the smartest video I’ve ever seen about procrastination.

How do Happiness & Money go together?

Money, money, money… it’s a simple, yet contentious reserve of value. How has it come to be so important? Money is an agreement, a form of self-fulfilling trust. It is a measure – how valuable is our behavior on the planet? Sometimes we are granted with money, with a smile, or with a punch in the face. The attempt is huge and heroic: to strive to evaluate every skill and vocation, without letting anyone upset. I like that we try to estimate what we considered to be immeasurable. Once upon a time, consultancy was an occasional chat with a friend. Nowadays, it’s an industry.

 

If your target in money spending is happiness, scientific research shows that experiences have to be chosen over things. When eventually buying stuff, it is useful to think about what experience you’re going to get. I love buying books. The purchase makes me happy already. When the pack is delivered to my door, I’m so excited I can’t wait but break it open. And the best is usually yet to come. Books inspire, books connect, books relieve. It’s not an ode, just an example of how objects could be valuable to us, thus a beautiful experience to buy.

 

I believe that every of us, the so called “market”, has already understood that. Stuff pricing falls, while service’s mostly arises. Services become more valuable when provide us with exciting, better experiences. Objects do the same, but the technology razor kills the costs by exponential ratios. Scientific research suggests experience has a major impact on happiness due to experience-related positive peaks, that we are likely to remember. That might be the explanation to another, seemingly dual research statement:

“Money is related with self-oriented actions. Happiness is mostly developed within relationships.”

Experiences are usually shared, while buying is mostly a solo act. When money is spent on objects and experiences that enhance our connections, happiness comes in.

 

Pay now, consume later.

It is a little counterintuitive, still research-based piece of advice. Credit cards are an example of attractive tools that allow us to delay pain (yes – spending activates neural areas witch are related physical suffering). But the payoff is eventually to get into even more pain (debt shows to be the most stressful issue overall). What about doing the opposite? To buy in advance is fruitful – you get a free excitement while waiting for the purchase, and once the time has come, you might have even forgotten and you kinda get a self-given gift!

 

Bottom line: turn the focus on earning more into changing the way of spending what you’ve already got.


All of the above was mainly inspired by the episode #50 of the fantastic You Are Not So Smart Podcast. Check it out!

Seeking for a fuckin’ job

This week has been quite a rush.

I’ve been looking for all kinds of options that could benefit my entry into the job market. I let myself been caught up in the temp agencies pinwheel, sending CVs; forcing myself to believe that trying to quickly set up a proficient relationship with unknown employers would anyhow provide me faster with any kind of job.

I was insufficiently aware of the fact that my approach was almost useless.

8 steps to get what you want… without formal credential popped on my browser page every time I opened it. A Tim Ferriss tweet got me there, but it took me several days to actually read it, and I ended up wishing I had done it just on the spot.

I strive to constantly focus on the 80/20 principle. At day planning, nothing seems more powerful than to put my efforts in the task that if done would make everything else unnecessary. If I’m brave enough to seize my scariest todo, I’ll know that’s what has to be accomplished.

I feared the article would be the umpteenth promising piece of advice which I wouldn’t be able to stick to. Seth Godin’s straightforwardness helped me to overcome criticism about the post:

If you agree with every step of the argument, but the conclusion leaves you angry or uncomfortable, it might be time to reconsider your worldview, not reject the argument.

My new worldview? It’s totally worthy to try things out before judging them.


Want to get the juice out of the 4HWW post faster? Here is my review.

Exploring the dimension of giving

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

Unknown

I feel the need to focus on something valuable to do. What is the contribution I want to give to the world?

Yesterday evening, while I was going through the latest Anthony Robbin’s book, I realized that relationships grow through giving. The focus was specific on money, and I felt quite ashamed. I am not willing to give money away (I don’t feel I have them, btw), have been conditioned by painful past experiences. I gave money away to people that were not thankful, and I lost the good taste of giving. It all comes to the understanding of seeing what others actually need, and try to provide them the best, which usually is not money. Generosity is not one-direction based, it is established upon the feeling that comes together with the giving act.

Simone Weil saw attention as the highest form of love. I have plenty of time, I’m so lucky to be able to choose where to focus it. I would start from here!

I believe that true action comes out of inspiration. I want to influence people around me, for the better. Right now, inspiration I mostly get comes from different authors, and I feel incomplete and unworthy just to share their thoughts by clicking a button on my FB account. I want to be inspired to produce something on my own, without feeling ashamed of not being the original author – not yet! – because ideas have no owners, just great channels to be spread through. And let everything else happen.

What about…conspiracy theories?

I wish I had someone beside me while surfing on the internet, looking for answers. I was just about sixteen when I firstly got to meet conspiracy theories’ mindset. And I had no tools to face it, except my adolescent thinking process.

It increasingly influenced my world’s view, until I felt totally powerless and frustrated. Every path which was set in front of me was invariably spoilt by a handful of evil, wealthy supermen. Studying? I didn’t want to give away my efforts and talents to those who were wrecking my life already. Getting a job? No point I could ever talk to people who didn’t see that everything was so evidently wrong with the world, while doing nothing to change it. Everyone seemed stupid and powerless around me, and I felt miserably alone.

I had some companions whom I could share that black vision with. All of them were leading an “alternative” lifestyle, looking for easiest and cheapest way to make a living. A bunch of them were very wholehearted, they took the alternative side as their own perspective and made it a source of connection, sharing and joy. I feel so thankful to them, they inspired me to pursue simplification, joy of living and the overcoming obstacles. They definitely could have embraced any type of lifestyle – at the core they were lovely people, occasionally bothered by common issues. They just simplified those complexities, labeled with an average form of “world’s fault” explanation – conspiracy theories.

The most of the alternative fellows though, weren’t happy people. I was one of them. Conspiracy theories had a greater influence, acting as the perfect exit strategy from personal responsibilities that were somehow neglected. Expecting others to do what you need to do simply is a sad symptom of a powerless and frustrated mind.

Year after year, I felt increasingly tight and uncomfortable, looking at the world through conspiracy’s lens. I needed something different, in order to believe that I had a future and I could act. Now.

Surely spiritual teachings do not let any space to complaint, if taken wholehearted. I slowly became to understand how I could deal with my emotions and with my thoughts. I understood that I couldn’t go on but growing out of compassion and finding a way to support others. Thich Nhat Hanh made it so clear to me it his highly inspiring interview at OnBeing. Ho’oponopono teachings helped me to develop a wider concept of what I am responsible for.


Vodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch and the fabulous You Are Not So Smart Podcast episode #16 opened my eyes wide on the topic.

Aaronovitch smoothly introduces the Occam’s razor while defining a conspiracy theory as

[…] the attribution of deliberate agency to something that is more likely to be accidental or unintended. […] a conspiracy theory is the unnecessary assumption of conspiracy when other explanations are more probable.

Keep it simple! Which is radically different from any kind of clumsy misinterpretation due to helplessness in handling reality’s complexities… As A. K. Coomaraswamy once stated,

To be able to perceive post hoc and propter hoc, concurrence and causality, is a clear sign of a remarkable intellectual development.

Conspiracy theories have been explored and classified in different, helpful ways. The United States of Paranoia, a Conspiracy Theory author, Jesse Walker, divides them into

  1. “The enemy above” – conspiracy that forms at the top of the social pyramid (Big Pharma);
  2. “The enemy below” – conspiracy among the poor or the workers  (revolutions, riots, overthrows);
  3. “The enemy within” – conspiracy among people of your own group (spies, impostors);
  4. “The malevolent and benevolent” conspiracies (Matrix, Inception, UFO’s-liked theories).

Steven Novella, host of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, suggests conspiracy theories divide the world into three parts: Conspirators, usually incredibly evil, an Army of Light and the vast majority – The Sheeple.

Aaronovitch extracts 7 main characteristics that ensure their wide-spread propagation:

  1. […] conspiracists work hard to convince people that conspiracy is everywhere. An individual theory will seem less improbable if an entire history of similar cases can be cited.
  2. A conspiracy theory is likely to be politically populist, in that it usually claims to lay bare an action taken by a small power elite against the people. […] belief in the conspiracy makes you part of a genuinely heroic elite group who can see past the official version duplicated for the benefit of the lazy or inert mass of people by the powers that be. […] Those who cannot or will not see the truth are variously described as robots or, latterly, as sheeple.
  3. The theorist is just asking certain disturbing questions because of a desire to seek out truth, and the reader s supposedly left to make up his or her mind. The questions asked, of course, only make sense if the questioner really believes that there is indeed a secret conspiracy.
  4. The conspiracists draw upon the endorsement of celebrities and “experts” to validate their theories, and yet a constant feature of modern conspiracy theories is the exaggeration of the status of experts.
  5. The conspiracists work hard to give their written evidence the veneer of scholarship. The approach has been described as death by footnote. Accompanying the exposition of the theory is a dense mass of detailed and often undifferentiated information, but laid down as an academic text.
  6. Conspiracists are always winners. Their arguments have a determined flexibility whereby any new and inconvenient truth can be accommodated within the theory itself.
  7. Conspiracists are inclined to suggest that those involved in spreading the theory are, even in the “safest” of countries, somehow endangered.

Furthermore, conspiracy theories are a surprisingly vivid journey into the world of cognitive biases.

Walker cleverly states that

[…] Even when a conspiracy theory doesn’t have anything in it that it’s that it’s true about the object of the conspiracy theory, it says something true if it catches on about the anxieties and the experiences of the people who believe it.

Steven Novella argues that we don’t like disconnected events. Our tendency to make up apparent patterns attempts to connect events and explain anomalies.

[Conspiracy theories are] a form of pattern recognition in order to generate a narrative that makes sense of a complex world.

A further explanation could be that we are hardwired to be threaten by external groups from ancient times, when humans lived in small tribes, always fighting each other. Globalization in the modern world exalted the bias as a threat by governments and big corporations, Novella suggests.

He further reports interesting studies showing the psychology that backs conspiracy-oriented people:

People who tend to believe in conspiracies are more likely to see patterns in random visual images as well.

It is somehow fascinating that a large number of smart and well-educated people can be found among conspiracists. Henry Ford, for instance, actively spread the Protocols of the Eldest of Zion, and Bertrand Russell promoted the Who Killed Kennedy Committee. How could that be? Here you have some crucial differences between so called “intelligence” and “critical thinking” (not to say Russell and Ford had no critical thinking skills, of course!):

Intelligence makes you better at rationalizing your own beliefs, you’re much more sophisticated at locking yourself into your own belief. […] Factual knowledge, memory and other measures of intelligence actually work against you, they will give you the tools [to do so]. You really need critical thinking, you’ve got to be able to get outside and think about your thought process.

Steven Novella

Metacognitive skills seem to be the only way out of destructive conspiracy thinking. Mindfulness practice is a powerful tool to soften and deconstruct negative biases that get into our way towards a peaceful, worthy living.