This blog will hopefully inspire you, warm your heart, make you smile and feel positive.

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Live on the Path

peace

In order to find the path that offers a peaceful life, spiritual teachings recommend instead of trying to control a million little variables, one should simply let most of the events of one’s life seek their own equilibrium. Every factor that affects your life behaves like the swing of a pendulum. As a physical system, a pendulum seeks its point of equilibrium – the point of balance where the pendulum is effortlessly still.

You need to apply a force to take a pendulum out of equilibrium. Once the force is removed, the pendulum will rush back to its natural state, swinging back and forth until it finally settles at the zero point. There, where no effort is needed, the pendulum can peacefully stay in balance forever. If you want to keep thousands of pendulums steady all the time, let each of them find its own equilibrium. When every pendulum is at its equilibrium point, the line connecting all points is the path.

No effort is needed to keep any system at its equilibrium. When everything you do feels effortless, you’ll have found your path. Extremes exhaust us. Work too much, and you lose the joy of living; work too little, and you suffer from a feeling of worthlessness. Spend too much time with a loved one, and you’ll get bored and start arguing; spend too little time, and your relationship will fade. Talk too much, and you’ll never listen; talk too little, and you’ll never be heard and understood.

Every single thing we do has a point of balance. If you move beyond that point, you’ll need to exert effort to keep the system in an unnatural state. Little as it may be, the effort needed to live an unbalanced life adds up exponentially as the number of systems you need to handle increases and eventually becomes impossible to manage. Let everything seek its natural balance. We often throw ourselves into a fight against life. When the fight is lost, we will then complain that life is tough. Life can be easy. It’s the path we choose that’s tough.

In the movie “Forrest Gump”, Tom Hanks plays the slow-witted Forrest, whose “simplicity” allows him to go through life with minimal resistance. As a result, he ends up being on the All-Star American Football and Ping-Pong teams, meets 3 U.S. presidents, wins the Congressional Medal of Honor, becomes a shrimp boat captain, creates a large business, and becomes one of the early investors in Apple. Sometimes, like a feather blowing in the wind, the best you can do is travel as the wind takes you. The balance we should be seeking surely lies somewhere in between our hectic modern lives and Forrest’s.

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Life is Now

life

The start and end of our life are like the covers of a book. They are significant but neither of them really matter as much as the story that fills the pages in between.

How will you live if you know that today is your last day? If you know for certain this is going to be your very last meal, will you be upset that the waiter is not friendly? Or will you slowly savor and enjoy every bite? If this is your last traffic jam, will you spend the time cursing? Or will you wish it took longer? Will you honk the horn in anger, or will you switch on the radio and listen to your favorite song one last time?

Why does it have to be the last time for you to choose to relish the moment? And why are you not living that way today when you know that it may be your last? Live this moment as if it is your last. Every day a version of you dies. It leaves and never returns. Please don’t let it pass unappreciated. We rush through life and delay living it. We keep adding things to our bucket list, forgetting that the time to live that list may never come. Life is one long bucket list. Live it while you still can.

Understand that when the time finally comes, you will leave everything behind: material wealth, the people you love, and everything you hold so dear. So why do we hold on so tight when sooner or later it will all be gone? Life is a zero-sum game – we come into it with nothing and leave it with nothing. Nothing can be gained that will not eventually be lost. Life is a rental. So let things come and go, and experience them while they last. Rent a full and happy life. Live before you die.

Look Down

We always strive for higher, farther, bigger, and more. We measure our worth by how much we achieve in competitive and comparative terms, what matters is to achieve more than others. It’s not good enough just to learn; you have to score higher than a peer. It’s not good enough to have an enjoyable and rewarding life; you should have a better life than your neighbors do. It’s not good enough to enjoy playing football; winning is what matters.

But we also set ourselves up for disappointment because there will always be someone who’s gone farther or done better. We’re each dealt a different hand by life. Some are taller and some are shorter, richer and poorer, healthier, funnier, and prettier. That’s why there will always be someone who has “more” than you. We forget the flip side of this distribution curve – each of them has also “less” than you in at least one other thing. It’s just how the game of life is designed.

As we look up at others, we focus on the parts where we fall short. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to advance in life, but looking up, to compare, will end in vain. There will always be a reason to feel that what you may have achieved is not good enough. I look up at my manager, and he looks up at the chief executive. Models look up at prettier supermodels, and millionaires look up at billionaires.

Focus on becoming a better person regardless of how you compare to others. Work hard, grow, make a difference in this world, and feel good about yourself. Stop looking at what you don’t have. What you don’t have is infinite. Instead of looking up at those who appear to have more than you, look down at the others who have less. If you can afford to buy a coffee for a couple of dollars, be grateful, because there are people who live on less than the cost of a coffee a day. If you can drink a glass of water, be grateful, because there are people do not have access to clean water. If you have a home, be grateful, because there are homeless people freezing on the streets.

Looking down helps you appreciate the good things in your life. You may even learn to be grateful for your own sorrows when you see that there’s always someone with deeper wounds. In comparison, you realize that, by a stroke of good luck, you have been spared. While you may not be the luckiest, you surely aren’t the unluckiest. If you are not so sure, then please look down.

What Are You Waiting For?

waiting

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
– Wayne Gretzky

When the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel in 1506, Michelangelo felt so overwhelmed with self-doubt that he not only wanted to wait but actually fled to Florence and hid. The Pope had to stalk Michelangelo and pester him for 2 years to get him to agree to paint it. Just imagine how many Michelangelos in this world who never pursued or showed their genius because they were not dragged into the spotlight.

Whatever reason you use to hold yourself back – you are wrong. It’s not safer to stay quiet. It’s not better to keep the peace. It’s not futile to try. It’s not risky. All your excuses and reasons are wrong. There is no “right time” to improve your life. The moment you move, you’ll discover your strength. That’s the way to bring the real you to the table – by pushing the real you out of your mind and into the world. And the best time to do it, is right now when your heart tells you to move.

We waste so much of our lives waiting for the right time to have that conversation, ask for the raise, bring it up, or start something. Life is already hard, yet we make it so much harder when we listen to our fears, we convince ourselves to wait, to hold back. We all do it. We hold ourselves back at work, at home, and in our relationships. We fear of rejection, failure or looking bad. We hide because we are afraid even to try.

Are you waiting for someone to ask you, drag you, pick you, or catapult you into the spotlight, or are you willing to find the courage to push yourself? Sometimes there is no next time, no second chance. You get one life. And it’s not going to happen again. It’s up to you to push yourself to make the most. We can never be too careful, the time to act is now.

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
– Thomas Jefferson

The Inevitability of Coincidences

coincidence

At 7:15 pm on March 1, 1950, the 15 members of the church choir in Beatrice, Nebraska, were scheduled to meet for rehearsal. For various reasons, they were all running late. The minister’s family was delayed because his wife still had to iron their daughter’s dress. One couple was held back when their car wouldn’t start. The pianist planned to be there 30 minutes early, but he fell into a deep sleep after dinner. And so on.

At 7:25 pm, the church exploded. The blast was heard all around the village. It blew out the walls and sent the roof crashing to the ground. Miraculously, nobody was killed. The fire chief traced the explosion back to a gas leak, even though members of the choir were convinced they had received a sign from God. Is it hand of God or coincidence?

Let’s analyse this from different angles and consider all the possible scenarios. For this church explosion case, there are 4 possible events that can happen: (1) Choir delayed and church exploded, which actually took place; (2) Choir delayed and church did not explode; (3) Choir on time and church exploded; and (4) Choir on time and church did not explode.

Now, estimate the frequencies of these events. Pay special attention to how often the last case “choir on time and church did not explode” has happened – every day, millions of choirs gather for scheduled rehearsals and their churches don’t blow up. Suddenly, the story has lost its unimaginable quality. For all these millions of churches, it would be improbable if something like what happened in Beatrice, Nebraska, didn’t take place at least once a century. So, no hand of God. And anyway, why would God want to blow a church?

We tend to stumble when estimating probabilities. If someone says “never”, it just means a minuscule probability greater than zero since “never” cannot be compensated by a zero or negative probability. So, don’t get too excited. Improbable coincidences are precisely rare but very possible events. It’s not surprising when they finally happen. What would be more surprising is if they never came to be.

Choose Your Attitude

attitude

In the movie “Apollo 13”, Tom Hanks played astronaut Jim Lovell, whose mission was scheduled to land on the moon until an oxygen tank exploded two days after launch. Suddenly it was impossible for a successful moon landing but whether the crew would ever make it back to Earth.

There was a long moment of silence as the tension mounted, and then the silence was broken by Lovell’s calm, confident, almost cheerful voice saying, “Houston, we have a problem.” There was no trace of panic. If you had just walked into the room, you’d think his problem could be nothing more than a flat tire. He then proceeded to describe what happened and asked for advice on how to handle the situation. Step by step, the crew devised an ingenious solution, and eventually, they made it back home.

Lovell’s calm and assured attitude is what we need to learn. We’re each handed a set of cards in life – some good, and some bad. Keep focused on the bad ones and you’ll be stuck blaming the game. Use the good ones, and things become better – your hand changes and you move forward. Life is bound to deal you a few bad hands now and then. You don’t need to make a big deal out of every unexpected turn of events.

We should look at the current situation with an open, fresh perspective and attempt to use the new events in our favor. Your path may be rerouted, but nothing is lost unless you decide to quit. Through it all, arm yourself with the right attitude. When life gets tough, some of us feel that we’ve lost the game and life has won. But life isn’t trying to defeat you. Life isn’t even a participant at all – the game is yours.

It is all going to be fine in the end. If it is not yet fine, then it is not yet the end.
– Oscar Wilde

The Illusion of Control

In other species, survival is a matter of running when the tiger shows up. But we humans carry the burden of being a lot more sophisticated. We can forecast risk and plan our escape route long before that tiger is even born. We can scan the terrain and identify every possible threat, including those that are wildly hypothetical. We can take preventative measures, erect fences, set the traps, and add surveillance cameras. Furthermore, we can extend our plans to include those we love because we care for them. We’re able to take control while the best other beings can do is to react appropriately when the trouble starts.

Our need for security and control is instinctive. But are we actually in control? I trained hard for the marathon but got a flu before the run. Just when I needed to use the car GPS and it’s not working, I brought the car back to the dealer and simply found out the warranty has just expired. You arrived at the station on time but your train was cancelled. I changed job last year. When I lodged my tax return this year, only learned that my previous employer made a mistake in not deducting the tax from my last pay. I ended up in paying back the tax which is not a small amount. Although the money does not belong to me from the first place, it affects my saving plan.

We choose to ignore most other disruptive events that occur hundred or thousand times every day. Natural disasters, economic crises, victimization by fraud, bankruptcies, wars – those life-changing events take place everywhere all the time. They always point us down a road we weren’t expecting to take. And our path through life seems to alter too often. Sometimes, accident and tomorrow, you don’t know which one will come first.

Happiness doesn’t come from ignoring unpleasant realities. It comes from realism and objectivity in understanding life with all of its imperfections. Happiness comes from our ability to navigate such reality based on facts, not illusions. We think we are in control of everything, but how much control do we really have over those things we’re hanging on to? We all lose things and people we love, and we all get sick sometimes. All we can control is to choose to have a positive attitude and take actions without expecting results. Just give your best shot but don’t obsess about the target.