Master the Materials

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Reading quality sources increases our awareness quicker than pure action does. This quality of information is transformed into awareness, which then should be transformed into action as well. Action then in turn provides feedback and experience from which we can build a solid foundation for wisdom.

What is quality information? As example, books that have passed through the filters of many and are recommended by many and the message of the book is relevant to us at the moment.

This is because well researched and written book is certainly standing on the shoulders of giants. There are discoveries, upon discoveries presented there in very thoughtful manner. When you are reading such book, you will know from the first pages and lines that this is a material to be studied for a lifetime.

The more you read, the more aware you become. By starting to have conversation with the quality material you will deepen your bond with the knowledge, and make it easier for yourself to apply the knowledge and wisdom daily. You will start to master the material, eventually becoming master yourself.

Why Do We Compare Ourselves with Others?

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Good thing about suffering is that is that it’s mostly subjective experience. This morning I noticed that I am again in the present state suffering quite a lot, because of unskillful habit of comparison.

So I decided to take a moment and reflect upon this question. Quickly I decided to take Google with me and I asked the question there. So then I found Quora reply by Awdhesh Singh to this same question.

I am not surprised that I found answers online, however the particular answer put me to work some more. What I love about world and net, is that our understanding is not perfect yet. We can construct upon it, and even challenge the knowledge we have and this is exactly what I did.

I think this kind of positive constructive dialogue is way ahead. So instead of accepting wholly the original reply, I began to break it down, reflect and comment upon it.

Awdhesh begins by writing that “We have a natural desire” and contradicts this in the next sentence with “We are not born with the desire of comparison.”

In life often many things can be true at the same time. I considered here the possibility as well. However, after reading through it several times and reflecting these statements to all my previous knowledge, I would argue that the first statement is wrong. We do not have natural desire to compare, instead we have a habitual desire like he mentions in the second paragraph. Mostly my argument would be founded to I’ve learned in the Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habits and Gretchen Ruben’s books.

In third paragraph he mentions a brilliant keyword “believing.”

“However, slowly we were told that we must be better than others. This starts happening since a child goes to the school. You are constantly told to get the top rank in the class or stand among the top. If you play a game, you must play to win and be the best player. If you get a lower rank, you are shamed and even humiliated. Gradually, we start believing that in order to be happy and make others happy, we must be better than others. You must work harder to be better than others by any means.”

This was a breakthrough for me personally, because I am fascinated by habit and belief formation. As I mentioned earlier the Power of Habits book, that habits have three elements: cue, routine and reward.

When I began to reflect this question “Why do we compare ourselves with others?” in the habit context, I see that these three elements are in place:

  • Cue, for example work place results or in games the scoreboard. In life we have all kinds of scoreboards as well such as status symbols, clothes etc. All of these are triggers for the habit routine.
  • Routine, “how well others are doing vs. I am…”. Personally I noticed that the routine itself is deeply rooted in our identity and memory, what we have done, who we are now, who we are striving to be…
  • Reward: at simplest forms it is the feeling of momentarily gratification of being better. However when I started to probe deeper I noticed that for me it is linked with a belief of being worthy as well. Being good, means being loved, means attention is the currency of love. Belief that the better we are, the more we are loved.

From here we get to the belief levels: beliefs what we focus the most are the strongest. I.e. this belief that the better we the more love we deserve is not necessarily the best belief to hold. In the end, we want to be loved, we want attention. Surely at the top we get attention, however what kind of attention it is we so much desire?

Also aren’t we worthy of the kind of attention already as we are? I think we are. Our own beliefs just might contradict each other and if we end up thinking that we are worthy only when we are better than everyone else, we might not end up so well.

Be careful on which kinds of beliefs you decide to focus on. The reason why we compare ourselves to each other is a result of a belief and habit. Habits cannot be simply discarded as Awdhesh mentioned, yet like Charles Duhigg points out in Power of Habit, habits can be transformed. Awdhesh suggests some positive practices such as Count Your Blessings, Learn from Others, Respect Good Qualities which are actions in the right directions.

However, personally I do not feel like these are merely enough. I notice that the process needs to begin much earlier by being mindful of cue-routine-reward situations and the beliefs we operate on. Then we need to start working towards transforming the unwanted patterns into more healthy and helpful ones.

Repetition – Simple Way to Get More Out of Reading and Learning

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When it comes to reading or learning anything worthwhile, repetition is underappreciated. Common arguments go like “why bother learning anything at all because you can Google it.”

Well certainly you can Google, however you are just relying on outer source of information which may or may not be available. Another thing is that you are just processing information, you lose wholly the ability to understand deeply and synthetize deeply on based on this and other knowledge you have.

To simply put, that which you do not know and remember are not in the domain of your thinking, you cannot use it very well.

Simple way to get more knowledge, is to read more. And then read again after sometime, in order to understand what you have read even more deeply and from other perspectives.

After each reading time it’s good to have some key takeaways and put them in to action. And when you read it the next time you are more proficient in everything the book discusses and you can dive deeper.

When you repeat the repetition eventually you become the master, you could write it on your own, because you have done as you preach so long.

Selfless Service

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I have been reading Bhagavad Gita for quite a while now and I’ve almost finished it. It has been fascinating and inspiring book for me: i.e. since reading that I’ve decided to go vegetarian. Book has also strengthened by nonviolent beliefs and the kind of compassion for all living beings.

I’ve found many other good advice to apply and practice in my life as well in order to fulfill my purpose. At the moment perhaps my mission could be perhaps described as “good karma” – which could translate as doing more good deeds for the world than bad.

In order to succeed in this I feel like I need a game plan.

Previously I’ve thought about good karma along the lines of noble eightfold path and meditation. At times as well more practically, more along the lines of “zen of window cleaning…”

From Gita I’ve found even more practical way to further my mission: through selfless service. Selfless service means a service without attachment to the results of the work. Genuinely giving without expecting anything for return. I really like the idea.

Ideals and knowledge are great, yet everything like this is easy to forget to apply to all areas of life. Or to stay mindful at all moments.

Gita describes there are three levels of energies (gunas) present in us with ever varying proportions: sattvas, rajas and tanas.

  • Sattvas are pure: goodness, constructive, harmonious
  • Rajas are active, i.e. passion and confusion
  • Tanas are ignorant: darkness, destructive and chaotic

With these in mind it is easier to explain the mishap I observed myself doing today. I labeled it as a sandwich incident on later contemplation. At work, we had a breakfast today set up by thoughtful colleagues in the morning. I paid little attention to this in the morning as I stick to my morning routines rather compulsive manner. However later on the day my mind apparently started calculating in rather selfish terms about perhaps saving some of the leftovers for even later.

While this was understandable and mixed with other good intentions of saving the remainder of the stuff that was leftover, one could have approached with increased thoughtfulness and selfless service. One of my colleagues actually was surprised of my reply when I wasn’t considering others at that point. She is very considerate person and it was clear that her expectation of me was as well higher than that.

And to be honest on later reflection my expectation as well. Even thought the end result are the same, any attachment to end result means there is a different energy involved in this case it was more of raja – selfishly motivated although others did benefit from it too. Where as what I would like to strive for is sattvic, serving others first without expectation of any return.

Like it is mentioned in Gita, these energies of gunas exist in all people in ever varying degrees. Sometimes it takes another person to see to react to ourselves to even notice these energies at work.

Dare More, Break the Routine

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Repeating the same thing with the familiar expectations and results is boring.

Repeating the same thing with increased expectations and progressive results will results in much more fun things to come.

Seriously dare to break the routine. Even if you are taking the long road to learn something, break the routine. Only those who are willing to ditch the routine, trust the moment and their knowledge will be able to level up.

Dare to set higher goals. Build on the positive momentum and see how far it can carry you!

Break the pattern, do the unexpected. Dare to do more in smarter ways!

You Cannot Know Everything, But You Can Have Access to All What We Know

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I think renaissance man, an ideal worth striving for. This is because human mind, and brain itself can create immerse amount of value in short time if it’s provided with right kind of cues.

Still it’s rather unlikely possibility to achieve to know everything about everything worth knowing. With cybernetics this might again be possible in time, but know we must carefully settle with all that we deem worth knowing. It is limited amount that we can know.

Despite the limitation, it is worthy effort to be driven by curiosity and live the life of philosophy. If we do this, and meet other people who do this each of us have our own strengths and knowledge. It is through other people that we can access to their knowledge as well.

Combined power of networks is incredible because of the speed.

Brain is technology that does not get old.

Life is Fun When We Are Learning

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Attending business school created momentarily illusion for me that I knew something about something, grades did support this illusion for a moment. However, I was glad enough to enter a place where I could learn how business really works and I quickly realized how much I have to learn.

After completing my studies I understood that although I knew some theories and I had put them into some practice, the real learning would start now.

What I’ve been amazed is how little effort people put to their learning after universities to their professional development. Their employees even might be investing to their training and they do the minimum required. This might serve all of the parties involved in the short run, however it is not going to be enough in the longer run.

Learning is constantly refining our understanding of the world, applying that understanding, reflecting upon it and applying it again. I found PACT learning cycle from Skills You Need which does represent this very well:

  • Procure. New knowledge (theory) or ability (skill) is acquired.
  • Apply. The new knowledge or skill is then practiced in some way.
  • Consider. The results of the practice are evaluated and/or assessed.
  • Transform. The original knowledge or ability is modified accordingly

At best learning is this ongoing process. Yet people do not put much effort to first procure quality knowledge or skills, they settle with what has been given to them. Failure in the first steps leads to the lack of practice in later steps: people who take inferior ideas into practice, also do not have the ingredients for high quality synthesis in the transformation step.

In a sense, you need higher quality ideas in the first steps and then to keep on practicing all four steps in order to have high quality original working ideas.

Most of our ideas come from people are close to us. However, if no-one in the social circle procures any relevant knowledge outside the social sphere then the atmosphere becomes quickly stagnated.

Life is fun with great ideas, because it is through ideas that we can satisfy our needs of safety, change, uniqueness, belonging, fulfillment and sharing.

Don’t Think You Know

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To learn, one must be willing to learn without expiration date.

Magic of the learning happens with the attitude of openness, humility and curiosity. The best are awake and trying to constantly learn.

First thing is the preparation: those who are eager to learn are also prepared, both mentally and physically. Have you ever tried to absorb knowledge with an empty stomach?

Even if we recognize something we rarely know.

Even if we know something well enough to teach it, there still comes up something to learn.

So where exactly the learning stops? Answers is, it doesn’t. The road to mastery is the passionate learning and practice every day until the end of days.

Surrender yourself to the learning and make a note of everything, not just the parts what are highlighted and require. Often in the coaching people just write or draw what is being drawn to the flipchart, even though 90% of the themes spoken are not being drawn or demonstrated anywhere. So why record only 10?

Mostly this is due to laziness and lack of herd behavior to support to writing. Yet Even if you would attentively listen and write half of the references that come up, you would be way better off that most. Then if you would actually study those books and examples mentioned in during the training you would probably be in the top 10%.

Most importantly you would be actually learning.

We Can Draw a Box, but We Are Much More Than a Box

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The problem of the box is that it assumes we know everything about ourselves and our surroundings. We cannot. We barely even know ourselves. Yet we attempt to place ourselves and others into these boxes. We even cannot measure our minds, so what are we to set any limits?

We can measure the kilocalories in our food, but we do not very well understand all the systemic effects on individuals of the food we eat. Each one of us is rather unique superorganism which is made much more than just our bodies. One third of our bodies is in fact bacteria populations, which are again rather unique.

Boxes, also known as limits are descriptive language, which useful is in existing incrementally the present. However, we must be prepared to discard and challenge these boxes at each turn. They are attempting to describe something that perhaps cannot even be described by words alone.

World is as Wide and Abundant Place as are Our Beliefs About It

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 World is enormous. Even collectively, we know very limited amount of it in quantity of factual knowledge. What do you think this means for individual?

Have you had time to read and study every book ever written, then memorize at least the key lessons of it?

I assume no, and it’s alright. My point is merely that to make up this gap of all knowledge every acquired collectively and between ourselves, we rely on beliefs.

Literally individuals’ sense of the reality is very limited. This makes our beliefs hit off the mark. Therefore the greatest gift you can do for yourself is to start calibrating your beliefs and the sense of reality. You can do this for example testing are they really right by taking small manageable risks.

In 2009 when I finally decided to make something more lasting change in my life I decided to try some new beliefs. I picked up the core from especially Buddhist philosophy, beliefs about the nature of suffering. I began to ponder about the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. These became tools for me to understand better the difference between correlation and causation. When I combined this understanding with the practice of meditation, for first time ever I started having something that was in my control. I could now process my experiences in some meaningful fashion and through practice of meditation I could actually find enough peace to try again next day.

Through starting to living we gain the experience, and then we can adjust our sense of reality based on that experience. In my case it was rather having so poor sense of reality that I hardly tried. However as I said earlier, world is as wide and abundant place as are our beliefs about it.

We may never have a perfect sense of reality; however we may have better sense of reality. When we reach this point we can help others to rise above their level of beliefs, by pointing out everything that is within their reach, especially when they do not see it themselves. This is probably the greatest gift you can do to anyone:  to treat them with the potential they’ve to become.