This Chinese Curse Can Teach You a Lot About Times of Chaos and Despair

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Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, British Ambassador to China in 1936 and 1937, mentioned in his memoir that, before he left England for China in 1936, a friend told him of an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

There’s not much evidence this expression was ever used as a curse in China, but it’s become rather popular in recent years.

While at first glance a blessing, not a curse, there’s more to this saying than meets the eye.

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If You’re Not Drowning…You’re a Lifeguard

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When we think of wealth, we begin with one number: a million.

Let’s say a million dollars. To most people, that’s a lot of money.

In Monaco, it buys you a closet. In Chelsea, London, a garage. In Los Angeles, you might buy a one-bedroom apartment.

A million dollars allows you to purchase 27 Tesla Model 3. Or you can use the same million to buy almost one-third of a Bugatti Chiron.

There’s this old joke about a guy winning the lottery. Obviously, reporters come to his house.

“What are you going to do with the money?” the reporters ask him.

“I’m going to pay my debts.”

“And with the rest?” they inquire.

“Well, the rest will have to wait.”

Poor and rich are mindsets. Abundance and scarcity are mindsets. Two sides of the same coin. We often find ourselves traveling along the edge of the coin, trying to decide.

“Is it enough? Do I need more?”

Do we ever come up with a “yes” followed by a “no” to those two questions?

Seth Godin once wrote a remarkable short piece that ended with the following words, If you’re not drowning, you’re a lifeguard.

It made me think.

If we’re not drowning, it’s our responsibility to help others.

Most of us aren’t drowning. We’re not. We have a roof over our head, we have stable and fast access to the internet, and we earn enough to pay the bills, to go on a vacation or two every year.

We’re not rich, but we’re not poor either.

Yet, regardless of how much money people have, or how much they earn, most of them are not enjoying the benefits of a mindset that revolves around abundance.

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Lessons on the Most Valuable Commodity on Earth From the Richest Stoic

Manuel Domínguez Sánchez, The suicide of Seneca | Image via Wikipedia

In AD 65, Seneca the Younger was ordered to take his own life by the Roman Emperor Nero. Seneca followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, while also ingesting poison.

This order was a response to Seneca’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero. Former consul and advisor to the emperor and one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome, Seneca decided to embody his philosophy to the very end. He accepted his fate with calm, even though those around him urged him to plea for his life.

While Seneca’s words of wisdom touched on countless aspects of life, he is perhaps best remembered for his piercing thoughts on the value of time.

This wisdom is relevant to this day, or maybe even more so, as we live in a world that makes it easy to lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in countless micro-distractions.

Carpe diem, as the Romans used to say, is an art that needs tinkering with as we do our best to seize time, rather than waste it.

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Don’t You Dare Give Up on Your Dreams

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“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmon

I began writing in my most vulnerable years. I was dumb and arrogant, as most teenagers seem to be, and I did my best to pour greatness into every sentence I wrote.

But I was also lying to myself, writing about what I didn’t know, pretending to know, and I got caught and people could see that I wasn’t willing to let them in — I was building this wall to protect my true self from anyone who would be searching for it behind my words. There was nothing that belonged to me in the stories I wrote.

There’s this poem by a Romanian poet, Mihai Eminescu. It’s called To My Critics, and the last verses go like this:

It is easy to write verses
Out of nothing but the word.

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Who the F$#k Is Cristian Mihai?

The author of this article, age 8

When I was a kid, I thought I was destined for great things. I was born on Christmas Day, exactly one year after they shot Ceausescu, the only ruler of a Communist country to ever be executed. Now, in the same spot, they’re building a shopping mall.

Maybe because I was born when I was born, I don’t really listen to what other people tell me I should do. I never did.

I don’t like authority. I don’t like to follow rules.

I am not afraid of the consequences of not doing what I am told. I am not where I’d like to be in life because I don’t like most people. I have long suspected they don’t like me back.

I am a rebel without a cause, garnering a bit of applause here and there from those who read my stories.

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Stop Waiting for Inspiration

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Haruki Murakami is one of the most celebrated authors of our time. He is also a man of tremendous focus and discipline. He wakes up at 4 a.m. and writes for 5 or so hours. Every single day.

Kurt Vonnegut would wake up at 5:30 a.m. work until 8 a.m., eat breakfast, and then work a couple more hours.

J.M. Coetzee, the 2003 Nobel Prize Laureate, supposedly spends at least one hour at his desk, every morning, without fail.

Franz Kafka, one of the most influential writers of the past century, would work each night from 11 p.m. until early in the morning.

Maya Angelou used to write every morning from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One of the most prevalent myths is that to do creative work, one must feel inspired. It’s not true.

We can always work, whether we feel inspired or not.

It’s all about developing a routine.

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The One Question You Should Always Ask Yourself Before Pursuing a Goal

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Goals are essential to our happiness. Working towards a worthy goal ensures that we live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.

If so, why do we fail at most of our goals? Why do we struggle with motivation?

If our vision of the future is so compelling, if we know why we want it, if we know how to get it, then why do we struggle to do it?

I believe it all comes down to the fact that we never ask ourselves this simple question, a question that perhaps you don’t even want to think about, let alone answer.

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These 5 Quotes Changed My Mindset Forever

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Nine years ago, just as my father declared bankruptcy, I went through a sort of mid-mid-life crisis; the kind you often have to fight against when you’re twenty-something and lost.

Nothing made sense. I struggled with depression and feelings of insecurity. I was a bunch of good intentions held back by a set of limiting self-beliefs, anxieties, addictions, all stitched together with a lot of hope.

I was so desperate for a way out of hell that I couldn’t see the fact that hell was something I had built for myself, hell was something I was carrying with me wherever I went.

During these years, as I slowly descended into darkness, I’d often stumble upon quotes that I’d deeply resonate with. They’d offer a bit of comfort, a bit of clarity, and I’d ponder and ponder about them.

The ones I never forgot about are the ones that defined my mindset and allowed me to escape the hell of my existence.

Here are five quotes that defined my mindset and allowed me to fight for my dreams.

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Push Beyond the Point of No-Return

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During the Roman Republic, the river Rubicon acted as a sort of frontier line between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the northeast and Italy proper, controlled directly by Rome, to the south.

In 49 BC, perhaps on January 10, Julius Caesar led a single legion, Legio XIII Gemina, south over the Rubicon from Cisalpine Gaul to Italy to make his way to Rome. In doing so, he deliberately broke the law limiting his imperium, his authority to control his army.

As he led his army across the Rubicon river into Central Italy, Julius Caesar is credited to having said the following words, “Alea iacta est”.

“The die has been cast.”

The phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has since been used to describe an individual who commits to a risky or revolutionary course of action, similar to the modern phrase “passing the point of no return”.

The most common boundary that many of us struggle to cross in life is the one that lies between who we are and who we’d like to become.

It’s generally intimidating because of the work it takes to get to the other side. Is it worth the time, the energy, the pain, the commitment? Are you even capable of crossing the distance between the two? What is going to happen in-between, as you suffer in order to reshape yourself into someone you’re proud of?

These are all valid questions. The answer is not the resounding “yes” that people often hope, because we often forget that there’s no going back. The plethora of inspirational quotes and self-help advice neglects this part.

And this is why our subconscious mind tries to sabotage us. There’s no going back.

If Caesar had failed, if he had been defeated, him crossing the Rubicon would have been seen as an ignorant act of defiance in the face of obvious limitations.

“John crossed the Rubicon, and look at him now.”

I find that the answer lies in what we expect to find on the other side of the river.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of The Mind

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If only a dollar would have magically been transferred to my bank account every time I was my own worst critic…

The thing is, life could be so much better for many of us, if only we’d get rid of certain limiting beliefs, negative thinking habits, and an obsession for listening to the advice of a risk-averse and scared brain.

Negative thinking patterns have a way of monopolizing our words and actions. The key to success, in my humble opinion, is learning to spot these defective habits and replace them with empowering affirmations.

If a thought does not serve you, it has to be replaced.

Let’s take a look at the 7 most destructive mindsets that affect the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

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