What were the most important things you learned during your childhood and earlier years that helped you later in life?
Reading. I owe it everything. My earliest memory of reading was with my mother. I saw a colorful book cover on my dad’s shelf and I was interested in reading this story and I still couldn’t read. She read it for me and I was captivated ever since. I learned to read specifically to be able to get the same high I was getting from reading such stories of adventure and heroes. The main theme through my young life was that I was always hauling a book everywhere I went. I was always stuck in the folds of some novel, story, comic book or a novel. I was big into fiction and science fiction and I made it a huge part of my life. But, as it often happens, life and school eroded my passion for reading and it was put aside for a very long time. Of course, the internet happened to all of us and I was always reading stuff, but you don’t get much intellectual stimulation from reading internet articles and watching funny YouTube videos. But I remember a stretch of time during the internet bloom in the early 2000’s when I was writing poetry. I used to enjoy it. I used to write quite a lot back then. These skills have become the most important in my life right now where I am trying to find wisdom and knowledge in the folds of a book. Books have become my most trusted virtual mentors and I am enjoying the ride and getting much of the old thrill I had been getting in my younger years through fiction. The revelations about the lessons I should have learned earlier in life in those books have a way of smacking me in the face, and quite painfully. But I take solace in knowing that I simply wasn’t ready to learn such lessons. Sometimes I read something and I simply put the book aside and smack my forehead in frustration. I hear my own mind barking at me: “You should have known this stuff 20 years ago!!!” When I finally cool down a bit, I find my rational voice and I tell myself that every bit of a life lesson you think needed to learn much earlier in your life could have only been learned when you were ready for it and you weren’t ready for it, plain and simple.
Facing fear. I used to be afraid of dogs. I used to be scared of street dogs barking at me. One day I learned that dogs can smell fear. I also learned that if you run away from a dog, the dog will chase after you, it will treat you the same way you want to be treated, like a prey. The best way to deal with street dogs is to stare them down and attack like a predator and chase after them. I reflect on this lesson every now and then. I see a great similarity with all types of fear. Life will sense your fear and retreat and will attack and fight you accordingly. The opposite happens when you choose to charge at life and make your way through it with courage. I think of it now in terms of the Matthew Principle: “To those who have everything, more will be given. From those who have nothing, everything will be taken.” The more you attempt to gain, the more you will be rewarded with gains. The more you try to defend against loss, the more you sustain additional losses. Basically, that’s the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte famously said that attack is the best defense. So, it does pay to chase your dogs of fear and defend against the caprices of fortune by charging at life and being on the offense. I see it now as a universal principle and the best philosophy to advance your causes in life.
What were some challenges or disabilities you experienced and what did you gain or benefit from living with and through these?
Inflated Ego, entitlement, hubris, pride, vanity, gluttony, jealousy, pettiness, lying, sloth, perfectionism are few of those. My deep isolation during my early years and lack of parental presence and guidance had left me yearning to socialize with people. My communication skills weren’t developed properly and I was direly trying to make friends by any means necessary. I pretended to be many different people at once. I had several circles of friends and I wore a different mask with each of them. I had likes, opinions and even a sense of humor build into the mask that I automatically put on with certain company. It usually got awkward and confusing when I have to be with two people who belong to two separate circles in my life at the same time. I was a mess. I benefited from that experience through self-reflection and choosing to be honest to my true self. I decided to drop all the masks and be willing to face the music. People tend to be surprised by your true self when you drop your mask and eventually, you have to. I was willing to sever ties with old acquaintances and old friends because I couldn’t be in such a fake company anymore. Through facing these past issues, I chose to be honest with myself and present an honest face to the world, and be it as it may be. I do not think it brought on an easier existence, but most certainly it is now a more peaceful one.
What are the practices which you have implemented into your life, which are difficult that have built credibility with yourself and improved your self-esteem?
One of my virtual mentors is Naval Ravikant, a very successful angel investor and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, he has a quote which stuck to my head on the first time I heard it: “Self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself.” Basically, he says that anything unethical that you do hurts you, even if no one else knows about it, but YOU would know. You always know what you are. It all comes down to the actions you choose to do and if you repeat those actions they become habits and your habits define your character and you will have your full record in the back of your mind reminding you always of who you are. I think the practices I try to maintain and constantly feed in my own mind through thoughts, reading and journaling can be summed up in “The Four Agreements” book by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The first one is you have got to be impeccable with your word because the word is the most important building block of your thoughts, actions, habits, decisions and goals. Be impeccable with the words you tell yourself in your own head and the words you tell the world. Handle your words with reverence and care. Your words shape your world. The second one is you do not make assumptions. Assumptions are imaginary foundations you make up in your own head which have no solid support in reality and you use them to build judgments and opinions, you take offense to what you think other people meant or thought about you, you make unrealistic expectations in life and it ALWAYS leads to disappointment. The third is you should never take anything personally. Most everything is assumptions floating through the world and everyone, including yourself, are out there trying to sway the world in their own self interest. You cannot control everything. You shouldn’t try to control that which you can’t control and you shouldn’t take it personally. Life is indifferent to us all, don’t take it personally. Words people say to you, might be hurtful and might be bitter and poisonous. This poison is running through their veins and they are choking on it. It is not you, do not take it personally. Your own negative words ringing in your head are simply the part of your primitive brain trying to save you from hurt and the dangers of the environment, it tries to get you to safety, it is trying to protect you through dissuading you from actions which might expose you to danger, it doesn’t know any better, it’s ancient, ignorant and living in the dark caverns of your brain, don’t take its words personally, it can only hurt you if you do take such thoughts personally. The last agreement is to always do your best. You won’t be perfect, ever. Even if you live and breathe the previous 3 agreements day and night, you will not be able to follow them to the letter. You will not always be impeccable with your word. You will make assumptions. You will Take things personally. The most important thing is that you don’t beat yourself over it. Forgive yourself and move on. Promise yourself that you will always try your best and will try harder the next time. See, it all boils down to intention. A life without intention is a wasted one. You have to put intention in your thoughts to be able to add value and meaning to your thoughts and life. Your internal monologue matters a huge deal. Bake good intentions and forgiveness for your mishaps into your every thought and you will be able to overcome the obstacles the world throws at you, mainly because you try not to pile on more obstacles of your own making. Your worst enemy is self-sabotage. Once you learn to manage your tendencies to self-sabotage, you might be able to move forward and make ahead in life.
Speaking of the practices that I managed to implement in my life and which I draw upon for self-esteem, I have managed to gradually pluck myself out of several strong addictions over my lifetime so far. Basically, it’s developing the skill of taking back control over your brain and watchfully influence what it does and what behaviors that need to be retrained or replaced entirely. The major theme I found throughout my life battling addiction, is that people get seriously demoralized by the shame that comes from failing to do that which you know is completely the right thing for you to do, like quitting something damaging and addictive. The one thing that would carry you through the years of struggle and eventual success is forgiveness and perseverance. It’s how we define our relationship with failure that holds the key to battling addictions and destructive behavior. Most people fail the first time and they just throw in the towel and declare, I quit, that’s it, it’s how I was made and this is how I’m supposed to be and this is what I am supposed to do. They rationalize their decision to give up on themselves and declare it as their identity and battle with the world to accept it against all logic and reason. I was guilty of the same behavior and every time I quit my attempts at losing weight were followed by a period of indulgence and massive weight gain, so it was with smoking. What most people do not realize is that it only takes trying again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Each time you fall down, you get back up and try again. You fall down 8 times, you get up 9. That’s all there is to it. That’s how you train you body muscles. That’s how you build up good habits. That’s how you acquires knowledge and expertise. That’s how you displace destructive bad habits.
Once you know all the facts, it’s easier to make the necessary changes. It’s not that you are a failure, the most important factor is that you don’t know the necessary information to succeed.
My first success story I have in my cookie-jar of accomplishments is quitting purified sugar. It had come to my knowledge that sugar is the main cause of so many diseases like Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the main culprit in my ongoing lifetime battle with obesity. I quit it cold turkey in 2004 and even though I relapsed a few times here and there, but my baseline is No Added Sugar to Anything. I failed so many times at it. I tried to cut back, but my own mind doesn’t work like that. Cutting back doesn’t work for me. I can only do cold-turkey. I tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, and then tried again, and… one day I was able to stick to it. The life without added sugar to coffee makes your taste palette a whole lot more sensitive to taste. You acquire a good sense of what is considered of good or low quality. You don’t get the nagging necessity for a sugar rush. You can consume less food, and your hunger cravings dissipate. Sugar is the most destructive drug there is. My life has improved tremendously after I had quit added sugar.
My second success story is about quitting smoking. It’s another drug that triggers addictive behavior in the brain. You get addicted to the smell, the taste, the aftertaste, the automatic cues to light up, and you can’t break free. I knew smoking was a very bad habit. I knew I had to quit it. I knew I tried to quit and did successfully quit sugar, so this too is something I can do. But, as with most addictions, you don’t break free until you reach a critical mass of some sort. I simply didn’t want my son to see me smoking and think of it as OK. I used to hide from my baby boy when I was smoking. I went outside, or locked myself in a room somewhere he couldn’t see me. I had a very clear idea about not losing the moral authority in such a matter, because I doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to tell your kid to never try smoking while he’d seen you all of his life smoking openly before his eyes. He was about 3 years old when he caught me one day and he asked with that the most innocent of voices, “what are you doing daddy?” I threw the cigarette and puffed out the last drag of smoke and said “nothing.” That coincided with a lucky break of catching bronchitis and stay bedridden for a whole month on medication and strong antibiotics, a period of hell, during which normal breathing was unbelievably painful. I got out of that experience swearing off smoking forever. I was able to capitalize of the period of being sick which expanded over a month and masked most of the regular early withdrawal symptoms I’ve come to be quite familiar with. I’ve marked it up as it repeated so many times over the years. First I had to quit cold turkey, because, I don’t do, cutting back. I have a head splitting headache and bouts of anger for 3 days. I have the worst coughing in my chest for 3 weeks. I crave a cigarette for 3 months. I feel like I can go back to smoking at any time for 6 months. After that, it’s smooth sailing, until you get that special friend, or that bad stressful situation, or whatever you think is pushing you towards smoking again, and looking out for a crutch, that’s the easiest one to use. So, I have managed to quit for 1 day and relapse, quit for one week and relapse, quit for 3 months and relapse, quit for 3 years and relapse. And yes, in that order. Note that each time I tried, the time I was able to keep it up expanded. That’s how you can achieve almost anything. In a week of writing this, I will mark my 4th year in a row smoke free.
Internet addiction is one of those modern day plagues from which it seems there is no escape, but you would be mistaken if you think that. It is actually quite simple to do. Note that simple doesn’t mean easy. Simple and Easy are not synonyms. Simple means that you can see the plan of action in detail and you can mark your way to the finish line with perseverance and faith. It is quite hard to follow simple instructions. Because, you have to understand why. The mind doesn’t follow whatever logic it doesn’t understand. This is why you don’t follow good advice and well established wisdom. You simply don’t get it, yet! I used to be an internet addict. I wasted years in all sorts of internet communities and forums and chat venues and everything in between. When social media dawn onto the human experience, I was everywhere. It all started when I realized it is another form of addiction i can remove from my life. And having two major wins in my bag I knew I had the strength to pull it off. It call comes down to the principle of displacement. You simply turn off from your view every bit of useless information that is sucking your attention. You just have to go through your timeline on facebook or whatever platform you’re using and when you think something is a bad influence, simply unfollow and unlike. You can actually use the algorithms running these platforms to your advantage, because you simply train them by your engagement with the content you keep watching and the posts you like, the people you follow, and the topics which you keep searching for. So, you have to quietly, keep at it every day until you wake up one day and you see that only the things that you wish to see are right there before your eyes, and they don’t require you turning on notifications for them, so you get rid of notifications as well, and suddenly, you don’t have to reach for the phone in addictive frenzied despair. Like all sorts of addiction, it requires plenty of trial and error, you will fail miserably, but if you know the simple formula, well. You know you’re getting there someday. Nowadays, I have no notifications from any social media apps or emails. I first check twitter to check on certain people I want to follow and learn from, then I check my facebook account which is following only a select few of my friends and plenty of mentors and educational material and groups. I don’t like cute funny videos and I don’t follow popular culture on the socials. I try to control and limit my content as much as possible, because I know how hard it is to get sucked back.
I am trying to lose all of what is left of my excess weight. I have been obese all of my waking life. And I have been at it for years. I’m not there yet, but as you might has surmised, I know with absolute certainty that I will succeed eventually. Not quite there yet, but I am gathering my second wind for yet another triumph over a lifelong practice which limited my chances of success. I can certainly attribute all my failures and lack of self-respect to my inability to lose that damn excess body fat. But rest assured I am going to defeat this thing once and for all.
What were your biggest failures/mistakes in life, and what did you learn from them?
My biggest failures, which are following me to this very day in the form of the most painful regrets, can be distilled in a failure to launch dilemma, my inability to make up my mind about which direction to go in life. I literally couldn’t make up my mind regarding where I want to go, what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to become. I think I sort of thought I would figure everything out in due time. The thing is, I never did. I was spinning my wheels in addictions and distractions. I learned the lesson the hardest way imaginable. You need to make a decision, even a bad one and stick to it and see it through. A bad decision is an order of magnitude much better than making no decisions at all. Stagnation is comparable to death. Perfection is unattainable, you could do perfectly fine with “Good Enough.” The Space shuttles and rockets, set a target and launch towards it in a predetermined trajectory, but they are required to constantly make small course corrections due to expected and unexpected external conditions. Ships at sea set a course from one port to the other, and also are forced to chart a course to avoid hazards along the route. You always get feedback from your actions and you gain valuable knowledge when you make a decision towards a certain action and follow through with execution. You, then, get to understand your new options based on where you are right now. You need to study exactly where you are and take stock of what you have and make due with your current tools, environment, tools, skills, and valid options. Even if it goes bust, you simply would learn about why something did not work and your experience will be invaluable towards future decisions. That was a lesson I needed to be told when I was 20 years old.
Where is your favorite place you have ever been and why?
I don’t think I ever thought of an answer to such a question. The concept seems alien to me. I never developed a certain attachment to places. I am hard pressed to have any specific one pop up in my head. But if I have to name a place I guess it would be my distant memory of my early childhood with my parents. We used to live in a small house in an expatriates compound. I had a garden all of my own. I had a swing made out of a tire tied to a thick tree branch by a big sturdy rope. I had a merry-go-round and a slide and climbing bars. I had a bike and my dad and I used to play ball together after he gets home from work. That was my best and most cherished memory of my life and that place might have sucked to my parents from their vantage point, but through the eyes of a child, I look at it with fondness.
May you rest in peace dad. I really remember these times as the best ever of my life.
When you feel frustrated, angry, or out of control, what do you do to quickly and effectively return to your baseline emotion? (How do you, “Self-soothe”?)
The remedy is in the book “Love yourself like your life depends on it” by Kamal Ravikant. I repeat the mantra: I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.
I also journal every day. I try to get the negative emotions out of my head and trap them all on paper. I try not to keep them bottled up in my head. I try to self-motivate with all the positive self-talk I can muster. Some days are harder than others though. As I write this, it is one of the more difficult days in my life. I am writing my heart out in my journal. And I plan on repeating my mantra of self-love all the way to work.
If you were to believe in the idea of PRONOIA, and believed that the Universe has conspired on your behalf, EACH AND EVERY MOMENT of your entire life, what moments would prove this belief to be true?
Wow, I have to admit that I never heard the term Pronoia until I first read your question here, and I do thank you for teaching me something I didn’t know.
I guess that one way to think about it is how the universe was conspiring to make me wise by teaching how to be humble, shaking off all of the unnecessary and unfounded hubris that was in my egotistical younger self.
I am not sure I promptly recognize moments where the universe seemed to be directing opportunities towards me. Perhaps, it did in the past but I wasn’t paying attention. The concept of “Pronoia” is an echos of the same old thought of “Ask and you shall receive”, “Sow and you shall reap”, and “If you take one step, God/the Universe will take two.” The Poet and philosopher Rumi said: “What you seek is seeking you.”
I believe that I have yet to begin to feel the effects of my good actions in the world, but it might be simply causality, the cause and effects of your actions. Perhaps “Pronoia” is another word for Karma. The actions you do in the world will most certainly have repercussions and consequences in tune with the nature of such actions. Neglect of life begets life neglecting you. Promoting love begets more love being directed towards you. Exhibiting anger, hate and nihilism begets more of the same reflected back towards you. Our brains are mostly a confirmation bias machines. What NLPpractitioners call the Riticular Activating System (RAS), is that basic brain function which set the filters for all the inputs of your senses and what goes inside your mind and what you notice based on how you program it. You program it with your decisions based on your thoughts and actions. This is why it has been a universal truth in the world to do good, to say good things, to promote values of understanding and knowledge.
I think part of how that works is manifested in this specific moment I’m having right now with my laptop and thoughts trying to write back to you in reply to the interview questions you offered for me to answer. This was all instigated by my action of sharing my thoughts with you. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity had I not taken the first step of creating a platform for my publishing my thoughts out of my journal and to the world at large. Then taking the leap towards sharing these thoughts with friends and strangers trying to see what will come of it. I honestly did not expect much. I didn’t know how the world would receive it. No, that’s not true, I mostly expected indifference, ridicule and harsh criticism. The good-natured words of encouragement came as a complete surprise and were welcome. The next thing I know I get your invitation to be “interviewed.” Here as well, I do not know what might come out of it, but I am at a point in my life where I’ve learned the value of saying yes to life. Saying yes to opportunities, saying yes to invitations to step into open doors. Perhaps one of those days I might be invited to a place where opportunities and other open doors might be waiting for me to walk through. The thing is I now firmly believe that whatever you let out into the world will be reflected in the opportunities reflected back towards you. If you allow your creativity and thoughts to pour out in abundance, you will be rewarded with abundant opportunities. I might stumble upon a thought that will change my entire existence, I might find an opportunity that would lead me in a situation where I feel the most valuable and the most productive. So if Rumi says “what you seek is seeking you,” then what I am seeking here is a life of purpose, a place where work and play merge seamlessly into a state of flow. where time flies by and where I feel productive and enjoy the process wholeheartedly. I have to admit that I find writing as a creative outlet for me is such a venue of expression that gives me the most fulfillment and the most gratification. I am not sure if my style and thoughts are world-class or not, and I am fully aware that smarter and more professional authors exist in the world. But I am saying yes and I am not letting such thoughts to dissuade me from expressing myself in the way I enjoy the most. I do have to say that answering these questions right here right now, are the effects of Pronoia in action.
What is a long-lasting, sustainable contribution you would like to make that lasts long after you are gone, and you do you want it to affect?
Jim Rohn discusses how one of the great motivators in life is leaving a legacy. I would like mine to be about helping others pick themselves up from the depths of the hell of hopelessness and into the heaven of progress and improvement. I would like to leave my son a legacy of knowledge and a perhaps a guideline on how to reach for the good life. I would like to leave a good thought of love and warmth in the memories of everyone who has ever encountered or interacted with me. I want to be remembered as someone who selflessly provided abundant value and guided people towards a life of accomplishment and creativity. I want to create a blueprint for how people should reach up and grab at the abundant helping hands waiting to pull us all upwards but we’re unable to see because we’re stuck below the fog and darkness of escapism and addiction. I want as many people as possible to remember me as a beacon of hope. I want to be remembered as a symbol of hope in the midst of hopelessness and utter loss.
What are the principles and core beliefs you base your decisions and your life upon? Are there any principles or core beliefs that you altered/improved over the years, as you grew, progressed, and improved? (Old beliefs that didn’t serve you/were harmful vs. New beliefs which benefited you and those around you a great deal.)
Wow, I can easily see myself writing 10 pages on this subject alone. The kernel of all my beliefs is that I should always remain an eternal learner and to keep improving and upgrading my thinking and grabbing at each and every piece of new knowledge that would give me an edge in the world. So whatever beliefs I have now, they might get a tweak or an amendment or they take a number on my list. But it remains the bedrock of all my principles, learning is the epitome of the meaning of human life.
I am actually really big on visual imagery when it comes to my life philosophies and I found an extreme amount inspiration in an obscure book by the phenomenal author Scott Adams. “God’s Debris” is the philosophical equivalent of a psychedelic drug trip between science and religion. I believe the thoughts in that book worked as the glue I pieced together whatever information I collected through other books and thoughts from the thought leaders I follow regarding the meaning of life and what it means to lead a life of meaning. I believe that the ultimate meaning in life is to learn and improve and have an unrelenting, efficient and flawless process for climbing up the curve of improvement into infinity. There’s no end in sight because there’s no such thing as an end to improvement, it’s literally limitless. You’ve got to fall in love with the process because that’s entirely all you have. You lose yourself in the work and your rewards are simply the perception of the higher elevation you reach every single moment you spend lifting yourself up to another level.
My one and biggest regret is that I didn’t start my journey of enlightenment and improvement earlier in my life. I keep regretting my wasted years in stupor. I remember a conversation I had with a very close friend of mine back then about how I perceive my life, and I did tell him verbatim: “I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m always late to everything. I feel like one of those days I will be waking up, looking at my life and saying to myself: ‘Wow, I’m 10 years late to this.'” Little had I known that I was programming myself to be lazy, ignorant, nihilistic, and worthless. Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” And I think I believed what I was telling myself back then and slumbered through the years until one day I woke up and I was a total loser and a complete failure at life, and it was almost literally 10 years after that conversation I had with my old buddy. I won’t lie and say I’m passed this regret, but I am trying to forgive myself every single day, I believe it stokes my drive towards learning every single day. I keep reminding myself that I’m already late to the party, much like Mr Rabbit in the Alice in Wonderland story. It lingers in the back of my head as I go through books and podcasts and I think it pumps out my thoughts onto the paper when I journal every single day.
This year I had stumbled upon a quote by the Stoic philosopher Seneca which I keep repeating to myself as a Mantra every time I feel I’ve lost my footing and the burning pain of regret aches with the sting of a sharp blade slicing through my insecurities. Seneca the Younger says: “I don’t complain about the lack of time… What little I have will go far enough. Today—this day—will achieve what no tomorrow will fail to speak about. I will lay siege to the Gods and shake up the world.” Seneca, MEDEA, 423-425
Beautiful, isn’t it?
He seems to be speaking to me loud and clear. Don’t fret about the time you wasted in your years of comatose withdrawal from life. Do your work, now, today. Focus on the present moment and do everything you can do right now. The past has gone by and it cannot harm you anymore. The future never happened and you cannot foretell what lies ahead in good fortune or painful calamities. All you have is right here and all you have is right now and all you can do is simply to do what you can at this very moment.
Marcus Aurelius, says it with the utmost authority in his own journals: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.”
The third core belief I hold so dearly is to love myself. The book “Love yourself like your life depends on it” by Kamal Ravikant is my go-to book for an emotional reset. Love for yourself is the core belief that would allow you to forgive yourself for your past mistakes. It gives you permission to keep going and to never give up, because you wouldn’t give up on someone you love. It makes the effort of discipline feel all the more tolerable. It looks at your failures with a compassionate eye. It silences your sirens of negative self talk with a calm deep voice that drowns all other poisons of the mind. When it gets overwhelming, when the burden is simply too much, I close my eyes and I simply repeat it over and over again: I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.
Do you have a morning routine which you adhere to in order to, “Prime your pump,” and empower yourself to be a better, more grounded, centered, focused version of yourself for the day?
I have experimented with several daily routines, I don’t keep them all in a specific order, but I go through all of them, or at least most of them every single day. I wake up, I ost a beautiful picture on my facebook page, I read a page from the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and I post one of the quotes from the book on my page. Then I get up and have myself a cup of Bulletproof coffee and a bunch of supplements and small bowl of nuts. I take a cold shower and brush my teeth and then sit at my laptop with my journals. I track my food and note down my weight for the day. I journal about the 5 things I feel most grateful about that day. I journal about 10 ideas around a certain topic to exercise my creativity muscle. I journal about my thoughts for the day. I write whatever ideas for a project I want to work on or a book I want to read or an article I want to write. I keep them in a list to be able to hit it once I feel inspiration is running dry. I simply never run out of inspiration this way, because I might write down 2- 3 new something to-do everything the muse hits me, and they pile up nicely waiting for me on an off day where I am bored with whatever task I have at hand, I look at my list and go through it and find that Uh Huh! moment and find energy to put the thing I have been doing on pause and shift my focus to something else. Then after that I go through my daily affirmations list and I go through those and after that I might have time to read a few pages of the book I’m reading at the time. Basically I have some real physical dead tree good old fashion paper book to read when I’m at home, with my trusted mechanical pencil to do my notes on the margins. Then I prepare for work and hit the road listening to my Audiobook that keeps me company during my daily commute. I used to do a simple but effective morning exercise routine but I was convinced to put it on hold because of my back pain, I hope to be able to get back on track with that as soon as I get it fixed.
What are your favorite 3 quotes and why?
I have a plethora of good quotes. If I had to pick three, I will have to go with these:
“Life shrinks or expands in proprtion to one’s courage.” -Anais Nin
Every single action you take requires courage. I was introduced to the difference between courage and confidence through the iconic Debbie Millman interview on the Tim Ferriss Show. Debbie spoke in detail about how she was interviewing The Author Danny Shapiro and she said that “Courage” is more important that confidence. Confidence is overrated. It all begins with courage to take action, to start with the beginner’s mindset, to humble yourself before your own ignorance and decide to learn to push up then crawl then take a first step then walk then run like any naturally born human being learns how to use his body in the beginning of life. It all begins with taking the first step.
Life is one big confirmation bias engine designed basically to mirror your own beliefs. It was Henry Ford who said “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” You only get what you tolerate. It takes courage to stand up for yourself and not take the way you are treated. It takes courage to start the difficult road of self-discipline to get your mind and body into shape. It takes courage to take the necessary actions to change your life circumstances. The imagery of how life opens up for you when you take a step towards life with courage and determination, and how it closes up on you when you cower back into a corner and dig inside a hole you’ve dug for yourself, is mighty powerful. It’s a lesson you have to relearn over and over and over because it is undeniably one of the most powerful universal laws of existence.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus Aurelius
“The Obstacle is the way” by Ryan Holiday is of the first books I’ve read when I’d first started out trying to educate myself. I have to admit that Ryan Holiday is one of my most trusted virtual mentors and I follow his thoughts and writings with regular dedication. I have Ryan to thank for introducing me to the Stoic Philosophy. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king, and roman emperor, wrote such wisdom in his own journal which we read today, hundreds of years later. Such universal wisdom speaks to the virtues of invoking creativity and persistence in staying with the problem until it is solved, and in the process learning about the problem and about yourself and developing the disciplines that would carry over to solving other problems later on in life. Those who give up way too early are the true failures in life. The answer is waiting for you to take the time and effort necessary to uncover it and with such an answer a treasure trove of wisdom, skill and knowledge that would also be uncovered along with it.
When the ant stumbles upon a rock in its way, it will first try to go around it, if it can’t, it will try to go over it, if it can’t it will try to lift it, if it can’t it will try to tunnel under it, and if it can’t it will try to literally dig through it. The ant will never ever stop before an obstacle, ever, until it gets through or dies trying. That’s practically the best way to tackle the obstacles you find in your way. You think about the different ways you can get past that obstacle in every creative means possible, and keep trying until one of those ways end up working for you.
In the business and startup world there are terms and expressions for it. They tell you, pivot and fail fast. The reasoning behind such axioms is basically that if you move fast enough, with persistent earnest efforts, even if you’re going in the wrong direction, you’ll figure out you’re heading in the wrong way fast enough to course-correct. The fearful slow-moving decision maker, might figure out too late in the game that the vehicle is driving down the wrong path and he needs to take the nearest U-turn, but time is the biggest factor in life. They don’t allot more of it to you when you waste it.
This concept is the bane of my existence and the most difficult thing I am trying to figure out how to incorporate in my own behavior of everything else I know. It is one thing to know something and it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. I’m facing lots of psychological resistance in myself trying to apply such wisdom in my life. I hold on to the hope that one of those days, the missing ingredient will just fall into place and then when I turn the key, the engine will start.
“If you did not get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it or you tried to bargain over the price.” —Rudyard Kipling
Now this quote is the most painful wake up call. It’s a bucket of ice cold water dropped over your daydreaming head. So, yeah, you’ve had such and such dream of becoming one thing or the other and doing this or that things and making whatever you consider the thing you want to happen in your life the most, but that main thing here is that if you really want it, if you want it badly enough, you would make it a priority, and you will make the necessary investments of time and resources to get it. Some people tell you they want to read more, yet they never crack open a book. Some people tell you they way to exercise more, yet they don’t even take a walk around the block even on their lunch break. People fail to realize that doing the huge amazing deeds requires paying some serious dues, paid for with effort, action, blood and sweat, dedication, trial and error, and most of all persistence over a long period of precious time. When people tell they want this or that and they don’t take a single step in the direction of doing whatever they’re doing, it simply means they don’t really want it, they’re brain-storming and dreaming of something in a split-second internal monologue that’s more like, “wouldn’t it be nice if I was doing so and so?” Yes, it would be really nice if that’s something you’re really after with all your focus and dedication. But most everyone is just lost in the land of paralysis and indecision. They’re dreaming of the day they will be able to break free from their chains and become free, but they’re stuck in their heads and world of what ifs and lost hopes and dreams.
You can’t hit a target unless you choose that target and aim at it, then make the effort of grabbing your weapon, load it, hold it, then fire at it. IF you miss you just load it up again and fire at it some more. One of these days your hands will become steady, your grip will become a lot more firm, you wil be able to handle the recoil, your form will be flawless and your aim will be sharp and the bullet will hit the bull’s eye.
Do you have a book list of your favorite, most helpful books? What are the books on your list and what were the most important points from each one?
Well, this is an incredibly hard question to answer because there are so many. Actually, i created my blog page thebookreviewblogonline.
wordpress.com specifically to try to answer that question for myself. But in trying to answer your question, I’m going to try to first, point you in the way of the best book rating and recommendation website in the world in my opinion, and then I’ll proceed to note a few examples from the most recent books I read.
Two words: Derek Sivers. The entrepreneur, speaker, programmer and musician is one of my favorite characters in the whole wide world because of, among many things, his book rating and book notes page. You can simply browse the books by the date of when he read them, the title, or which he thinks are the highest quality of them all.
I’ll just take to that page and walk through maybe the few books I read from that list:
1- 12 Rules for life: This book is an expansion on the thoughts and ideas of Dr. Jordan B Peterson, the Canadian clinical psychologist extraordinaire and one of the most interesting original thinkers in the world today. I am still struggling with finishing this book because of the heavy burden of the ideas it has between its folds. I am planning a full blog post regarding the deep lessons I learned from this book. One of the most fundamental lessons I learned is that hierarchy in society is embedded in our genetic code and that is the laws of power in the world work the way they do. There are plenty of lessons in that book, I have been reading it on and off for the past 18 months. I will go through it all because I know I must do so if I’m to better understand myself.
2- Ego is the enemy: The first Ryan Holiday book I read. It had an explosive effect on my understanding of the world and my own behavior. Its main topic is how you can self-sabotage your own life with your baser instincts taking over your behavior and how handsomely it pays to discipline your own mind not to be susceptible to the toxic effects of an inflated Ego. It’s full of Stoic philosophy and eternal wisdom. I will most certainly re-read it next year.
3- Total Recall: Arnold Schwarzenegger is AMAZING. His autobiography blew my mind. Literally. This guy came from nothing and with tunnel vision focus and dedication and pure undiluted and crystal clear vision of the goals he wants to achieve managed to conquer so many fields and climb over the top of so many mountains in life that you wouldn’t believe it. You might know him only as an athlete who turned movie star and became rich, but the truth is entirely different. Arnold is a master chess player. Arnold played a pivotal role in putting the sport of bodybuilding under the spotlight. Arnold planned and successfully executed his plan to immigrate to the United States to become a bigger star in Bodybuilding in the land of his heroes and mentors and the land of endless opportunity. Arnold worked extremely hard towards saving enough money from his prizes and the small mail-order business he had going, and the odd jobs he was doing in construction with his best friend and business partner Franco to start a conglomerate real estate business, and he became a multimillionaire long before he ever set his sights on becoming an actor. Arnold never auditioned for any roles except the star roles because he could demand it and exact his will. Arnold managed to become the highest paid actor in Hollywood. Arnold married into the Kennedy’s and later launched a political career that culminated in him becoming the Governor of California. The only thing he wasn’t able to do because of the US constitution was to run for president. I have absolutely no doubt, if he was allowed to run, he would’ve won in a landslide. That man is one of the greatest forces of nature and he makes it clear that with enough focus and dedication which starts with knowing exactly what you want and going after it will all pistons firing and all guns blazing until you reach the very top is something anyone can do with the right mindset and discipline.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Check it out yourself and you’ll see that his excellent notes and his ratings trumps whatever you might find on Amazon or Goodreads Reviews. Whatever book Derek Sivers gives a rating of 10/10 is a must read book.
From my own reading list, I have a few mentions that deserve to be mentioned.
1- Letters from a self-made merchant to his son. These life lessons by John Graham a 19 century meat packer in the American Midwest are incredibly powerful. It teaches a young man what it means to grow up in the world and how to succeed in life and business. There isn’t a page on this book that isn’t highlighted by me. I guess when I try to think of a couple of lessons that lingered in my head a few of them float up the surface. You should work hard on yourself. You should dress well. You should not try to start a family until you have a solid pair of feet under you that would carry the heavy weight of a family. To know your business really really well and start from the bottom up. To keep the company of people that will only make the time you spend with them more valuable. Too many lessons of the highest quality. I wish I’d read this book in my early 20’s. Life might’ve been extremely different for me.
2- Acres Of Diamonds by Russel Conwell. This lecture speaks of another universal truth. It simply doesn’t matter where you are and what your circumstances are. With enough creativity, imagination, resourcefulness, you can figure out how to succeed anywhere in the whole world.
3- Rebel without a crew. Robert Rodriguez is unbelievable in his retelling of the power of creativity. He tells how he managed to gain mastery over the craft of film-making by using up every single bit of his resources to teach himself. It’s a tale of discipline and dedication and a strong character. This book represents more than anything that he managed to do ALL OF THIS at the age of 22!!! Which means that the overruling truth of the life lessons I am trying to learn now in my early 40’s have such tremendous power that when you get in the right circumstances to learn them as early as possible, they can transform your life in unimaginable ways.
Who were the most important influential people in your life so far? Who do you consider your mentors? (This can be someone in your life or someone you have never met.)
Oh man, I have plenty of mentors. I am not lucky enough to have lived a life where I was blessed with a real-life true mentor who could just point out the way for me and explain the things I needed to know early on in life. But I have plenty of virtual mentors. I read their books and listen to the interviews and I try to soak up as much wisdom as I possibly can. The following list is not in a specific order: Robert Greene, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the younger, Epictetus, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Adam Robinson, Shane Parrish, Robert Rodriguez, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Darren Hardy, Ray Dalio, Terry Crews, Debbie Millman, James Altucher, Tom Bilyeu, Aubrey Marcus, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen, Naval Ravikant and Kamal Ravikant, Dale Carnegie, Rockerfeller, JFK, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franking, LBJ, and so many many more.
Do I have your permission to share/publish your interview?
Yes, You have my permission to share the answers I shared with you. And thank you.