Self Help

I’ve always been into optimizing so self improvement came naturally. I’ve listened to practically every opinion and doctrine, and you know that when you’ve heard more or less the same things in rotation over and over from self help gurus.

A friend once told me that I already had all the answers I needed. That was a wonderful revelation. We do indeed tend to discount our own counsel.

So after years and years of searching for more and having nobody come up with anything noteworthy I knew it was time to stop listening to everyone because they have nothing left to contribute.

My take away is:

  • Stop being a lifelong learner. Decide how much knowledge is enough. Then start implementing what you’ve learnt.
  • Listen to yourself, logically. Not self-indulgently. What you really want. You knew when you were 10 – they say choose what you wanted at that age. Likely because people reprioritize, losing sight of and forgetting what really makes them happy, instead pursuing their corrupt ideas thereof.
  • Have a sense of causality. It usually follows recognizing that one has agency, the privilege of choice, and the exercise of those choices causes outcomes for ourselves and others, both positive and negative.

25 Years and Browsing

My first single page site hosted on AngelFire, a free web host circa 1996, was launched this day 25 years ago, incidentally on World Health Day.

It was the starter web site of Eskay Business Service Centre (EBS), a family business providing executive suites and virtual office services. Business web sites being uncommon at the time, site visitors expecting an IT professional with specialized tools were surprised to learn that I was the Director of EBS and had authored the site in raw HTML using a plain text editor.

Keeping up with web browser technologies to provide an optimal experience became a thing of the past with content management systems so now we can focus on quality content rather than design and compatibility. Though I’m surprised that to this day there is no standardization of the favicon across devices and operating systems, which is why I present to you an all-new favicon set optimized for specific devices as a tribute to the past and in celebration of 25 years.

Self Love

My journey into self love has been life changing.

It began with being made to realize that I was bestowing the kind of love, care, attention and financial benevolence I’ve always craved, on people I love, as an attempt in satisfying my own need for affection. That’s what I learnt growing up, to go out of your way to help people who have not had your advantages in life. “Be generous with your time and energy.”

I might be famished by the time I get to the tenth person and still be wondering why I keep getting hungrier. Which then begs the question as to how can I ever hope to have a full stomach if every time I am hungry, I feed a loved one? The answer is likely rooted in my belief that, “love begets love”; and apparently that belief has not served me well because while I am famished I feel a sense of fulfilment because feeding others has been somewhat therapeutic, and this state of starvation while simultaneously feeling satiated is not sustainable.

I received this feedback when I shared my thoughts, and that finally got me unstuck —

You are just desperate for company, love and for your loneliness to go away so you give a lot of what you need because that’s your perspective, and you give it because you think that’s what everyone needs too
But you don’t get it back
Because the truth is that’s not what everyone needs
Or wants

Wow, time to reevaluate my beliefs and the saying, “Do unto others…”. What am I doing unto myself? Everything in excess is poison, even giving of myself to the point that my emotional investment breaks my bank when I feel unreciprocated. In that regard, I decided to do —

  • only that which makes me feel good about myself
    Reducing how much I invest in people, especially in those that don’t bring value to my life, or worse still, make me feel less than satisfied with myself.
  • in only as much measure as I can emotionally afford
    Not over-stretching myself in time, effort and money as these are all means of getting emotionally invested. Once the investment is less, it’s easier to adopt the “send and forget” strategy I use for e-mail (viz. deleting the message from my sent mail so I forget having sent it before it gets filed in long-term memory), and delete all memory of having made the investment. That way you’re not expecting dividends as in you’re not awaiting reciprocity you might never get, and can move on with your life, and it’s easier because the investment was from your emotional petty cash.
  • unto myself as I would do unto others
    Which is, to protect, nurture and pay heed to the needs of my inner child like a loving, caring, affectionate and doting parent.

Which then begs the question, is that the right thing to do? My go to is this blog post from which I have derived that right and wrong are societal constructs whose definitions are constantly changing, so I am not afraid or embarrassed to follow my internal compass. When I brought this up, I was asked with good reason, “But isn’t embarrassment a reflection of social constructs, rather than good or bad?” Fortunately I am privileged enough to not have that to worry about, as I answer to no one but myself.

So armed with recent beliefs that —

  • doing what pleases me seems to be the only “right” thing to do, if my other beliefs are true that
  • the purpose of life is to be happy, considering
  • life is random and
  • the only consequences in life are those that we wittingly or unwittingly bring upon ourselves through our exercise of our power of choice,

I have decided to not be collateral damage in another person’s story.

You may be justified in feeling hard done by, especially if you have done things for others that don’t seem appreciated, but don’t waste time brooding about it. You are captain of your ship of fate, so it’s your responsibility if you’ve been sailing off course.

Doing the Minimum

It’s disappointing when doing the minimum one needs to do to get paid, and reliance on the insurance industry to pick up the slack when one fails to do even that, becomes normal. But it’s worse when, rather than showing the moral courage and owning up to it, one uses lies, rudeness and offences to cover up one’s incompetencies.

Doctors need to have skills greater than the sum of the books they’ve read. Even a simple computer program can look up diagnoses and prescribe medication per established protocol by following a flowchart; and AI can probably do better than most consulting doctors. I came across an elderly person who lost the use of his legs because five doctors all came up with the same wrong diagnosis. It seems that either their need to respect each other’s professional opinions exceeded the need to correctly diagnose the patient’s health or they were all equally incompetent and looking up the same book.

Lawyers take on more and more business while actually doing less and less work, most of which is delegated to law clerks who in turn do the same, due to the safety net of making the client pay for insurance, so if anything goes wrong in a transaction, including due to their incompetency, they are not only safe, but actually get paid by insurance for more of their billable hours for filing the claim for the client to get reimbursed.

Banks are similar. They actually do not check the signatures on cheques under $1,500 due to the volume of cheques. If they do wrongly pay out a cheque, and provided the client notices, they have 30 days to recall the funds they incorrectly paid out (if it was to another bank), failing which there’s insurance to reimburse the client.

Insurance brokers make a killing on fear mongering, like there isn’t enough of it already. First pay premiums to cover the various risks, then not file a claim in the event of a loss, so as not to risk being dropped by the underwriter for filing the claim. Because being dropped by the underwriter would end the recurring revenue stream for doing pretty much nothing after first raking in the client.

“Professional” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in almost every context. Everyone considers themselves a “professional” in the sense that they are highly skilled at their craft and conduct themselves in a commensurate and ethical manner. To me that word simply means a person who charges money (as opposed to amateur) for whatever they have managed to make a go of in their lives.

I could go on and on – from people offering to help (for a fee, of course) to so-called “professionals” and businesses, everyone seems to be in a race against time to amass as much money as possible while doing the bare minimum possible.

Bigger Better Deal

People hold out for “the bigger, better deal” which explains why if you won’t settle, you don’t settle. Not that there is anything wrong with being single; it is in fact the best way to drive family lawyers, marriage counsellors and such parasites out of business.

The problem arises when we start looking for a connection to last a long time rather than revel in it in the moment; that is crazy. We are in this world temporarily, like on a train. We cross paths for even shorter times with fellow passengers. A person we meet at one station gets off at another, or we get off first.

We need to accept life as a train ride where passengers go and come wherein we engage our best for however long we have each other’s company and accept that one of us will have to disembark sooner or later.

If we are like we are today, with our faces buried in our phones rather than talking to each other just because the person sitting next to us is not “the one” (like we would know anyway with our faces buried in our phones), even that little time we have to engage is wasted in waiting. So stop waiting and reach out to everyone, and they might be the one or one of many people who will enrich your life. There are no bad relationships; you are richer with every one.

Equality vs Equity

The call for equality, whether it be based on race, gender, age  or such is based on the fallacy that it’s about fairness.  On the contrary, it’s anything but fair, and what we really need is equity, because unlike absolute equality, it takes into account individual needs.

A patient belonging to a race that would not do well on a certain medication would be foolish to demand a similar prescription as a patient of a different race that it’s suited to.  A woman suffering from menstrual cramps would not do herself any favours by insisting on standing when a chivalrous man offers her a seat on the train.

Fact is, we are all different, and even being the same person, from moment-to-moment we vary in physical and emotional characteristics, various abilities and circumstances.  We aren’t even equal to ourselves!

Teachers

Extraordinary leeway is awarded by society to teachers when it comes to tolerance of their being authoritative while being wrong, without considering the impact to student morale and the diminished quality of education thus meted out and its greater impact on society.

I have come across educators who have been exceptional people, which I believe is what made them good teachers or principals, as students imbibe more from a teacher’s actions than their words. When actions don’t corroborate words, then comes disillusionment.

One of my first memories: I once found a wad of money while picking litter from the school grounds, which I dutifully handed to the supervising teacher, specifically stating that someone might have lost it. The teacher shamelessly pocketed the money right before my eyes! The incident has stayed with me for several decades as I write this. I had the morals to not keep the money, but a teacher who is supposed to be one teaching them had none.

The most consistent issue I have encountered with educators is ego. I have experienced, seen or heard of everything from a student being reprimanded, to being hit or caned, because a student bruised a teacher’s ego. The other teachers, support staff, vice principal and principal all have each other’s backs in their self-contained ecosystem, whereby they lose all respect, as students are very perceptive. Whereas outside the school, power is divested between the police, judge, jury and prison warden. A judge would not be automatically inclined to issue a warrant just because a police officer believes someone committed an offence and as such are held to a much higher standard of conduct.

Often teachers become loud, obnoxious and obstinate in the face of reason, in an attempt to assert their authority. The only thing it affirms is their frail ego, insecurity and poor character. Personal baggage is likely another form of low sense of self worth and corresponding efforts to feel good about oneself, that results in the unfair treatment of students.

A pseudo-feminist teacher reprimanded a male student for so much as defending himself from a larger, tougher and older female bully, stating that a boy can hit a boy, a girl can hit a girl, a girl can hit a boy [and they would look away], but never can a boy hit a girl no matter how extenuating the circumstances. Does that not just go to create misogynists?

Makise Kurisu

Another teacher viewed an innocent drawing of a girl, reproduced from an anime character, as being, “degrading to women” and asked the student to change it; whereas when shown to another, older teacher, as a [true] feminist she had absolutely no issue with it. As a consequence of telling on the teacher, the teacher prohibited the student from ever handing in reproduced art for her class. This once again demonstrates that the student always pays for the teacher’s insecurities. A female teacher who carries her sentiments with respect to patriarchy to school and punishes students to feel superior, is what is really degrading to women.

Picking on a student is extremely abusive. If a student disobeys, a teacher makes his life miserable. A student used a laptop to accomplish a task instead of paper. The teacher retaliated with revoking his privilege to eat or drink anything (except water) or listen to music, or talk in class. Yes, the student should be following instructions, but the teacher should not be punishing him with power play either.

Teachers seem to forget that it is us taxpayers that put food on their table, and they not only fail to do their job of giving our children a quality education that includes imparting good human values, but are also abusive and hurtful towards and disillusion them. Being rude to students seems to be the norm, like they are cattle to be herded, not young people with feelings that get hurt. Like a student said in jest, “You [the teacher] are like the dominatrix that is paid to dominate us at school”.

It’s said that “power corrupts”, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.

David Brin

Why then are we surprised when world leaders act authoritarian with total disregard of democratic process; considering they are products of the education system and as such are merely modelled after their educators?

Meditation

If I say, don’t think of a flower, definitely not a rose, what are you going to think of?  First a flower, maybe even a rose, then definitely a rose.  So what do you think will happen when you are told that you need to be thoughtless and that is meditation?  Your mind will run rampant as you try to not think of anything, and you will be frustrated.  So how to meditate?

With meditation being cited as the universal cure-all and solution to every problem in every religious and spiritual discourse, without ever being told how to go about doing it, dissemination of unhelpful one-liners like it being ‘a state of no-mind’ or ‘being thoughtless’, and worse still spiritual elitists saying it is not something one does but rather something that happens, it can be confusing and frustrating to the point where one just gives up.

Thought substitution is more doable, as in exchanging negative thoughts for a relatively pleasant one.  Just like we distract ourselves by watching a movie.  I find thinking of something I like and which scenario I can play in my head works very well for me to go off to sleep.  In day-to-day work, it is easier to be mindful; single-mindedly consciously thinking of only the performance of the task at hand and not what I am going to do next or another such stray thought, but that is definitely easier said than done.

The second technique is ignoring.  The thought comes, you know it is detrimental, so for example, I would say, “Okay, hello thought, thank you, but I need to move on”.  That way I am kind to myself, not reprimanding myself for the thought and not dwelling on it either.

Meditation is the third technique.  Now I say technique because the practice of instructions to train oneself to be in a meditative state is commonly referred to as meditation.  Hence the debate about what meditation is.  The purists say, “meditation cannot be done, it happens”, and mock those trying to practice a discipline.  That is not helpful; it is demoralizing.  Recognizing that meditation is a commonly used term for a practice and not for the meditative state itself helps bridge the gap – just as ‘medicine’, while a discipline, is a word commonly used in place of ‘medication’.

Meditation is not the exclusive domain of people who consider themselves spiritually accomplished either, just as breathing is not.  It is not difficult; just different from the other two techniques.  It is observing.  So, say you close your eyes and these random thoughts begin.  Observe the thoughts like a third party witnessing the goings on.  Being thoughtless, in a meditative state, should follow as a consequence of merely being that observer.

One cannot really try and meditate.  One can reach a meditative state by observing one’s thoughts.  Such a meditative state is a temporary respite.  In that sense too it is a practice – towards constantly being in a meditative state, being an observer, whereupon the practice is no longer needed.

If you are lost in thoughts, then that is agitation.
If thoughts are lost in you, then that is meditation.
— Swami Tejomayananda

Divorce

The mantra about ending a marriage based on, “It’s better for children to not grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage”  is typical feminist pork for putting one’s happiness before that of one’s children, to divorce women from the responsibility that comes with being a parent. Despite anti-male activism and exalting pro-divorce, anti-children values, these feminists call for mother-headed households!

Marriage and children are a commitment — it can be joyful, challenging, stressful or even downright miserable; but that is life itself. When there are marital troubles such feminist-minded women seize the opportunity to manipulate the man to believe that it is his fault, then capitalize on his guilt to broker a deal on marital assets to become financially independent and exit the marriage to lead her dream life built upon the graves of the well-being of her children and ex-husband.

Why

“Why is this happening to me?”

My answer is, “Drop the question”.

Why do we ask Why?  It’s because we want an explanation to justify to ourselves why we need to accept a certain happening.  However the pursuit of an answer overshadows and envelopes us, keeps us engrossed to the point where we lose sight of the reason we asked Why? in the first place.

We get entangled in a quagmire of questions in the pursuit of answers.

The question Why?, while thus starting out as a means to an end – the end being, getting an answer in order to be satisfied, and as such being able to move on – ends up becoming an end in itself – as in getting an answer becoming our focus, preventing us from actually moving on – and thus becomes an impediment to our happiness.

Any way we justify them, all explanations are just that; explanations; and are worthless as their pursuit detracts from being happy, regardless of what the answer is to the Why.