Alexander the Great. Even though he lived on this Earth for only 33 years, some 2,300 years ago, we have yet to forget his name and legendary battles.
During his short life, nothing stopped him. Nothing. Huge armies with elephants, impregnable fortresses, vast distances over mountains and rivers and deserts, hunger, thirst, the sea itself, the uttermost extremes of physical hardship and war. His body was littered with scars; everywhere that is, except his back. That’s because the world’s greatest commander never retreated, and he never lost a battle.
Most of his portraits, sculptures, and coins reflect a kind of upward gaze as if he were staring into the very heavens, yearning for something unreachable.
He dedicated his life to the struggle against insurmountable odds. And he became great because he surmounted them all.
“Every morning, upon awakening, I experience the supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali, and I ask myself, wonder struck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dali.” — Salvador Dali
Dalí was famous for two things: his art and his eccentric and often ostentatious behavior.
In 1955, he delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne, arriving in a Rolls Royce full of cauliflowers.
To promote Robert Descharnes’ 1962 book The World of Salvador Dalí, he appeared in a Manhattan bookstore on a bed, wired up to a machine that traced his brain waves and blood pressure.
Dalí would avoid paying at restaurants by drawings on the checks he wrote, considering that the restaurants would never want to cash the checks since they were artworks by the Spanish master.
We’re all self-made, but only the successful ever admit it.
After all, why ever admit that you don’t like what you see in the mirror if you do not plan on changing?
But what if I were to tell you that the root cause of unhappiness and failure are not external factors, but our inner reactions to those factors.
After all, what is required of one in order to be successful?
Is it being a billionaire? Changing the world? Find one’s soulmate?
Aren’t those things intricately tied to a lot of external factors? And isn’t our perception of those factors the result of a combination of behaviors, beliefs, thoughts, and adaptations?
After all, some people are happy while having little reason to be so, and others are unhappy even though wildly successful.
It seems to me that we are only as happy and successful as we make up our minds to be. Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure, and ultimately it’s our inner reality that that dictates our own happiness.
Back when I was in high-school, during one of my kickboxing practices, I had to act as a sparring partner for a few weeks to one of the best fighters in the country.
It was the most humiliating and excruciating experience in my life. There’s no other way to put it. There was nothing I could do to even touch the guy, let alone beat him.
Yet, even though I consistently got beat, my skills improved considerably. When I look back at the four years I spent as a fighter, I often remember that one time I got a lucky jab at him or when he broke my nose.
Quentin Tarantino once compared our work towards progress as running a race.
If we run against people who are slower than us, yes, we win, but if we race against people who are much faster, we’ll come last every single time, but our time will be much better.
We live in a society that loves winning.
Winning is the only thing. The desire to be first. To be the best there is.
There are some victories that are impossible. Sometimes, a good defeat is its own reward. Sometimes, the best we can do is fight an impossible battle and manage not to lose it.
Having to fight against someone with far superior skills would provide me with the kind of mental clarity and focus that made me be so present in the moment that everything was moving in slow-motion.
If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself on the floor, trying to figure out what day of the week it was.
I couldn’t win, but I still struggled. And I enjoyed it so, so much.
I don’t know you, but I know this about you: like all of us, you have one goal you’re struggling to achieve. Maybe it’s a business venture, maybe it’s turning a passion into a source of income, maybe it’s your desire to get in better shape.
What usually happens is this: you begin to feel tired. Maybe exhausted is the better word to describe what you’re feeling.
What if the problem isn’t how much you’re trying to get done, but rather your mindset?
And this is how the 40% rule can help you achieve all your goals.
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
Loneliness, defined as an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. The key word here is perceived.
Loneliness, defined as social pain — a simple mechanism that forces us to seek others. The key word here is pain.
A perceived pain, for even one who is surrounded by others might end up feeling lonely. Some might say that’s what real loneliness actually is: feeling alone when you are, in fact, surrounded by others.
Today, when we’re all connected via invisible waves of technology, there are but two great tragedies: one is to be lonely alone, the other is to be lonely among others.
I often wonder which is the selfish option of the two?
Experience is what we are left with after we make mistakes
I am fast approaching 30.
Three decades of making mistakes, being broke, depressed, lonely, anxious, feeling guilty, powerless, hopeless.
Three decades of trying to conquer the world, trying to conquer myself, trying to change the world, or just those closest to me.
I’ve lost my way more times than I can count. I’ve failed, time and time again. I’ve tried my best, from time to time. I’ve cried, I’ve won, I’ve lost.
To be 30 means that my view of the world should have crystallized by now. Well, I still have almost six months to figure things out, but I can certainly say that wasting my twenties was one of the best decisions I have ever made without thinking too much.
Consider the following rules as me sharing what took me most of my twenties to figure out.
“Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood.” — Terrence McKenna
You are probably familiar with the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
We use it to justify the idea that one must focus on one thing, reach mastery, as this is the only way towards success and fulfillment.
As most simple truths in life, we use it because we don’t want to use precious mental energy in trying to understand the nuanced truths of success and mastery.
The nuanced point is that even the notorious specialists, such as Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso, were masters of a multitude of skills and crafts, not the least of which is their charisma and their ability to market themselves.
“the free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it — basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.” ― Charles Bukowski
Even as a child, Muhammad Ali took great pleasure in being different than the rest of his peers. He did so not because he was a rebel without a cause, but he certainly did it for the applause.
His defiance of the rules became most apparent when he began to train as a boxer. He refused to fight in the usual way, instead developing a style that would compliment his speed and agility. It was frustrating to try to punch Ali, as he kept dancing around the ring.
A few years later, he’d both irritate and confuse his opponents with his bold statements. After all, what could a fellow boxer expect from a man who claimed he was so fast that he could turn off the light switch in his room and be in bed before the room would be covered in darkness?
As children, we are often taught by our teachers and elders that there’s a certain way of doing things. There are rules and laws and norms that must be obeyed, unless we want to be ridiculed or even marginalized by others.
What we aren’t told, however, is the fact that a strong sense of self is the by-product of doing things our own way, the side-effect of ignoring the rules and venturing within ourselves for our own definitions of who we are and what we’re capable of.
The price of conformity is often a life of predictable boredom.
The price of independence is a life of introspection, constant struggle, and backbreaking work towards self-growth.