Annoyed? You could be the problem.

Two days into our Japanese trip and I am already kicking myself for doing the thing that I said that I would try and not do. Getting angry at my better half for petty little things. I know that usually, I would have let the annoyances build up and dictate my mood. Unfortunately, I slipped into those old habits only briefly today. Of course, the things that I find annoying are not the problem, I am. So, I am taking a good hard look at the reflection staring back at me and seeing that I still have a long way to go. This is a letter to all those in the same boat as me. If you find yourself frustrated by things that people do around you, it isn’t them, it’s you. This may be news to some, but yes you are the problem.

“But they just cut me off it’s my god-given right to be angry at this dickhead in front of me.” I hear you cry. What if they were rushing to take a loved one to the hospital, or maybe they just didn’t see you. Ultimately you can not change what has happened, you can not influence the person’s decision. Often the only thing you can control is the time it takes you to choose your response and your ensuing actions. I could have stayed mad and frustrated and let my emotions take hold, which I will confess for about an hour they did. (which would have ruined the rest of the day and possibly the trip. However, once I recognised that I was being unfair and looked at the emotions dictating my actions and deconstructed the petty reasons I was feeling them. I could then ultimately feel them, understand them and apologise to my partner for being shitty.

After an hour of stewing and a quick nap before take-off, I remembered a line from a book I read, “emotions like everything, will too pass” (or something along those lines). As with most of my writings and posts, it’s as much about me delivering to the reader as it is about reminding myself of the things I have learnt and must keep doing to be a better human. So, if you feel frustrated with someone in your life, maybe take a look at yourself and try to determine why you feel that way about them, and really try to get to the source, it is more than likely you instead of them.

Thank you for reading,

Carlos

Change and Growth

I have written about change before. Relating change and how often we fear it and how to combat the fear by coming up with our worst-case scenario and then deconstructing it. Fear-setting as described by Tim Ferris. I pretty much wanted to share with people something I had found to be useful. However, this post will be more personal as I will recount how I have been able to utilize change and take on the challenge of loving change.

Like I have said before change is inevitable, life is always constantly changing. You may hear news of a family member having their first child, you may hear an old acquaintance just passed away, you may have been fired from your job, your sister or brother may have just started playing gigs with their band. All of these things are changes, some the people have little to zero say in them, other times they have all the power in their hands to make the decision to change. However, in both cases, It is still up to the individual on how they perceive their current reality. Take for instance the person who just lost their job, they have multiple options on how they react and the ultimate decision they take. They could turn to the bottle and begin the downward spiral into depression, or they could use the lack of a job as a sign to look into other careers. Ultimately it is up to them what path they take. This in itself is the scariest part of change, knowing that no one else can make the choice for you, which is why often to avoid the decision people tend to walk the wrong path. Not because they chose it, but because they didn’t choose to take a different one.

In change, this is where we can find growth. Growth does not come from sitting idle, it comes from overcoming obstacles. Through my teen years, I did not understand this fully, I didn’t understand that being idle and sitting on the bus of life, so to speak, will not allow me to grow or where I want to be in life. The bus will take me to a destination that I may not necessarily like, to the wrong side of town that I will be more likely to drown in than to flourish. My dad often used this bus analogy to explain life, if you don’t like the bus your on, get off and get on the one you want, you may even have to go back to a previous destination to get to the one you do want to go to. Once I realized that a science degree was not for me, I got off that bus and worked for a bit, then I went back to school and have now arrived at a destination that I like a fair bit better.

I strongly believe that the times that we grow the most are in times of challenge and change. One, you can use those hurdles as an example that you can overcome the trials now before you, and two, that you can use them as stepping stones to take on more of life. Of course, you are not the only one overcoming things, and people before you have already overcome your current challenge. A big part of my growth has been seeking out people who have already walked the path I want to walk down and talking to, listening or reading about them, and see how I could incorporate the knowledge gained to my own experiences. If you find the task of choosing the first/next person you read about, my advice is: pick the two you want to read about the most, flip a coin, if you don’t like the outcome initially pick the other.

What do I do when my life changes and I don’t like the new situation I’m in? From my experience, it depends on the situation. When I was having tests done to see if they could find more tumors, the only thing I could control was my attitude toward everything. I would make my best effort to always smile while in hospital, always try to either make someone laugh or laugh at my circumstances. The key was making the situation a positive one. After all, I wouldn’t have a say in the results, the only thing I could have a say in was to go through with the precautionary surgery. In terms of not enjoying my new job initially, I once again took control of how I perceived the situation, I looked at the good things and found a way to make it enjoyable. So, overall, I would say, that no matter the situation you find yourself in. Find something in it to make it enjoyable or rewarding, focus on the small positives that you may find and amplify them. You can control the perspective you use to look at the world. My recommendation, choose the positive one.

Thanks for reading.

Cya on the mats.

~Carlos

5-takeaways: The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi is regarded as the best Japanese swordsman/Samurai holding an undefeated record in his 61 duels. He not only was a wandering swordsman (ronin), but a writer and philosopher. He was the founder of the Niten-Ichi-Ryu-School, a style of swordsmanship where two swords are used. In his later years he wrote The Book of Five Rings, in which he “defends his thesis: a man who conquers himself is ready to take on the world, should the need arise.” (from the blurb on the back). The Book of Five Rings is considered alongside The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, as one of the few books that cover the laws combat and more than that cover the laws of life. Here are my 5 takeaways from this classic.

  1. Know not only your abilities and limitations, but those of others.

Knowing your limitations means you can also know your strengths. So, you know when to ask for help or speak up when you don’t know how to do something. Musashi relates carpentry to the way of the sword, “The foreman should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable. He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary.” However, this can be applied across life. When you ask for the help of others, or when you are in a leadership role, you can organize people into roles in which they will thrive. This can also work in going against someone else. They will be defiant in their beliefs and will hold strong in opposition to them, so to know their limitations or weaknesses that will allow you to come at them from a different angle.

  1. Have the ability to view both the details and the big picture, be able to switch between the two.

Being able to detach and look at the big picture enables you to take stock of what you have done, what you are currently doing, and what you have to do. Giving you the overall picture, not only that but letting you really think about what you are doing and how to make it easier to achieve your next task or overall goal.

“What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive. In short, it is difficult for large numbers of men to change position so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict.”

Look at big goals, they are easy to understand, but the smaller you go the harder you must think about how it pieces together with other goals and tasks. However, when you can focus on the task at hand you are able to complete it quickly, whereas the larger goals need to be done over a longer period of time.

  1. Winning or success requires constant small improvements.

Throughout the whole book, Miyamoto finishes a lot of his paragraphs with lines like this:

“You must learn this through repetitive practice.” Or “You must study this well.” Or “With detailed practice you should understand it.” or “You must train constantly.”

So, it’s fair to say that he believes in constant and detailed practice, it might be a technique or strategy, but he really harps on this point. To get the desired results, you must put in the constant hard work. “Men must polish their particular way.” This can be applied in all aspects of life, you want to be better at your job, or you want to build a successful stock portfolio, or you want to lose 10kgs. Constant small improvements will determine if you succeed in achieving your goal.

  1. Live life fully. Don’t hesitate.

“This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet drawn.” Miyamoto is talking about when in a swordfight you want to use everything you can at your disposal, however, life could be viewed as a swordfight. You could look at your potential as your weapon in life, and why wouldn’t you want to see yourself using your highest potential. Giving all you have to whatever task is in front of you.

Of course, not unlocking your potential or waiting for the opportune time is not good either. “Waiting is bad.” As above, you need to work on it constantly, “step by step walk the thousand-mile road.”

  1. Train your body, mind, and spirit.

Keep your mind sharp so you can perform in stressful environments, keep your body strong to be able to move how you want, and the spirit or heart must be able to push through the challenges you will face. Go to the gym, read books, study philosophy, write out your goals, listen to podcasts, meditate, whatever you have to do to improve yourself. Back to the constant improvement, just a little at a time.

“Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”

Of course, if you lack training in one of these three, you will not be able to perform at a higher standard. You could be strong and have a large spirit or will, however, you could be bested by a person with a sharper mind. Conversely, if you are smart and strong you could be bested by a person with more will. It is like in jiu-jitsu, you want to have both strong defense and strong offense, if you lack in one, you will not be able to transition to your stronger aspect.

Hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways from Miyamoto Musashi, like always I left a lot out, even though this book is less than 60 pages. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from this classic.

“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

5-takeaways: The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I thought I would try something new and use a new format of review, where I break down my top 5 takeaways from a book. Hopefully reducing your reading time, let me know how you find it. While I was reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller, I was also plodding along on the tiny 120-page book, The Essence of Happiness. The book is an already summarized version of The Art of Happiness, which is based on the conversations held between The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C. Cutler. Cutler wanted to understand the qualities and practices that the Dalai Lama uses throughout his day that allow him to live a rich and fulfilling life. Deconstructing and forming them so that they could be used by non-Buddhists to pursue happier lives. So here are my top 5 takeaways from The Essence of Happiness.

  1. That no matter where you come from or what has happened to you, you can find happiness or fulfillment.

How do you find fulfillment if you come from a broken home, or you are a recovering addict how does one find happiness? Well as His Holiness says “generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.” Now, I believe that you can never truly eliminate suffering, as it is a part of life, whereby you can truly appreciate the highs when you pull through the lows. However, using your positives in ways to help others this contributes to a more fulfilling life. “Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your outlook, your way of thinking, and this is not a simple matter.” It is not going to be easy, as your way of thinking is brought about by your experiences, however, you can change your future experiences to be positive ones.

  1. Having a clear and calm mind needs discipline.

The correct mental attitude towards anything is paramount in its success and your happiness, so when a greater level of calmness is achieved it allows you to enjoy life, that little bit more. If however your mind is clouded with negative emotions, everything will seem to be against you. “For example, if you harbor hateful thoughts or intense anger somewhere deep down within yourself, then it ruins your health; thus it destroys one of the factors.” Having a calm state of mind should not be confused with an insensitive state of mind. “a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion. There is a very high level of sensitivity and feeling there.” without a calm mind you can be easily influenced by outside forces, however, with a little bit of discipline, you will be able to have some stability and therefore even in dire straits you will be able to navigate your ship. Discipline in the sense that you must train yourself to bring about positive thoughts.

  1. Change takes time.

These words are the only words on one page (page 29, if you have it), and I think that a lot of people forget that. If you go for the quick fix, it will be just that, quick. Then the problem will rise again. For a long-term problem a long-term solution must be used, “at the beginning, the implementation of the positive practices is very small, so the negative influences are still very powerful. However, eventually, as you gradually build up the positive practices, the negative behaviors are automatically diminished.” Do not get discouraged if you take a backward step, it is important to know that eventually, a negative situation won’t have an effect on your overall state of mind.

  1. Take the initiative to connect with people.

A lot of people often wait for others to respond to them in a positive way first, this creates a feeling of remorse and promotes a feeling of isolation away from others. Take the initiative and approach “others with the thought of compassion in your mind” meaning that you will be able to connect with them limiting the possibility that both of you involved will hold any ill will and negative feelings towards each other. “Whenever I meet people I always approach them from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common. We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions. We are all born in the same way, and we all die.” Using these underlying beliefs, you can more effectively and easily “exchange and communicate with one another.”

  1. The attitude you hold will determine the overall outcome of your life.

If you think the world is against you then it will seem that way. If you think that life is amazing and it should be cherished then that’s how you will see it. Experiencing suffering is inevitable, that is just how life is. A death in the family, finding out you have cancer, losing money on the stock market, all levels of suffering is sure to happen. “Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises. Now our usual attitude consists of an intense aversion and intolerance of our pain and suffering. However, if we can transform our attitude towards suffering, adopt an attitude that allows us greater tolerance of it, then this can do much to help counteract feelings of mental unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and discontent.”  The Dalia Lama talks about people who can often allow feelings of loss, anxiety, and grief to overwhelm them if they go unchecked, pulling them into a deep hole of self-absorption. A few ways to combat such feelings is to think of others that have been or are in similar or worse off situations, allowing you to not “feel isolated, as if you (had) been single-pointedly picked out.”

These are my 5 main takeaways from His Holiness, however, the following passage is one that resonated with me the most.

“Trying to avoid our problems or simply not thinking about them may provide temporary relief, but I think that there is a better approach. If you directly confront your suffering, you will be in a better position to appreciate the depth and nature of the problem. If you are in a battle, as long as you remain ignorant of the status and combat capability of your enemy, you will be totally unprepared and paralyzed by fear. But if you know the fighting capability of your opponents, what sort of weapons they have and so on, then you’re in a much better position when you engage in the war.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.