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Audiobooks and the Art of Story Telling.

Audiobooks and the art of story telling

Audiobooks and the art of story telling are having a moment; they are in the midst of a boom as they soar in popularity. They are one of the greatest and more recent gifts to life long learners. The beauty of audiobooks is that you don’t have to set aside some quiet time away from everything and everyone in order to read a book anymore.  You can continue to do all the things that you have listed on your to-do-list whilst having someone whispering in your ear a story that you want to hear.

Audiobooks and the art of story telling allow you direct access to a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom.  Books allow the smartest people within every field to share their knowledge and experience with you so that you can learn from them and avoid making the same mistakes. But even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. This is where audiobooks come into the frame, they come to the rescue of those who have no time to sit in a quiet corner to read because of their daily commute, their work, their house chores and so many other things that need to be done. For those who are experiencing some decline in their eye sights because of old age, don’t despair, you can still have access to all the information and knowledge that you want, just press the play button and off you go. For those who are dyslexic don’t  be put off by the thought of struggling your way through a book. Do you want to read Harry Potter? Sure you can and please don’t fret and don’t be intimidated by the size of the book. You don’t have to read it, listen to it, instead.

One should not underestimate the power of storytelling. From the beginning of time, knowledge was shared from generation to generation thanks to story tellers who used their artistry to pass on information, knowledge and wisdom to their community.  The rise of audiobooks seems to be a natural progression back to the oral learning tradition that was so common in the olden days.

Audiobooks or the art of story telling

I am a fan of audiobooks; but be aware that I am totally biased on this subject because I just released the audio version of my book ‘This Is Your Quest‘; and right now I would like to invite you to listen to the sweet and smooth voice of Nita Slater, my narrator, who will be whispering in your ear a story you want to hear.

This Is Your quest – A story you want to hear – Audiobook sample

What happens when a storyteller meets a professional singer and voice actress? They create something beautiful that fills the silence that exists when one just sits alone in a quiet corner with a book.  When I became an author, I found my voice, and by doing so I also found my new purpose in life, which is helping others find theirs.  And now, I have found an amazing voice to narrate and bring to life the stories that I wrote in my book. I am delighted to inform all my readers that the audio version of my book This Is Your Quest is now available, and it is my pleasure to introduce you to my narrator Nita Slater.  Nita is an artist with many talents, but her most amazing feature is her voice it is like honey sweet and smooth.

My mission as a storyteller is to weave interesting information into a compelling story that will keep my readers captivated and entertained. Story telling becomes magical when you add a smooth and engaging voice into the equation, making the experience more engaging, memorable and multi-dimensional.  Being read stories aloud is not reserved for children only, adults can also indulge in this pleasure.

I wanted to find out more about this fascinating profession, so, I asked Nita a few questions.  In this blog article I would like to bring to you an artist’s perspective from behind-the-scenes.

The Art of Story telling, backstage story. Meet Nita, my narrator. Can you tell us about you and in particular how did you become a book narrator?

I have been a professional singer most of my life and have also been involved with some musical comedy theatre productions along the way. Along with my experience doing radio commercials and narrating corporate videos, I felt that the combination of these experiences could quite possibly open up some opportunities within the realm of audiobooks. Plus, I love to read, and I love to learn, so narrating This is Your Quest has been a very enjoyable experience!

Audiobook and the art of story telling – This Is Your Quest is the audiobook you want to hear – Trust me I am the narrator

How do you select which book to narrate? 

When selecting a book to narrate, I first want to make sure that the content of the book is a good match for my delivery style. While I believe that my acting has provided me some versatility, enabling me to produce different styles across different genres, there are some titles for which I may just not be the best match. I want to make sure that my voice effectively complements the book’s contents. And, of course, I want to make sure that the book is one to which I would be proud to have my name attached.

What drew you to take on ‘This Is Your Quest’ as a project?

I was very intrigued after reading an excerpt from the book and knew it was something that I would actually enjoy reading. I also felt that the tone of the book was something for which my voice was well-suited. I enjoyed how the narrative takes you through history — the lives, the loves, the myths, the controversies. I found it to be not only educational, but thoroughly entertaining as well.

Audiobooks and the art of story telling – This Is Your Quest is the audiobook you want to hear. Trust me I am the author

In terms of the production process, this was the first audiobook I produced for ACX as well as one of the first projects I completed in my home studio. The editing process is quite tedious and extremely time-consuming, thereby taking slightly more than 2 months of daily attention to complete this 300+ page manuscript. I’ve learned from some of the more experience professionals that this is the usual amount of time typically required to complete a project of this size. So, while challenging at times, it’s also been quite a learning experienced for which I am very grateful.

What was the most fun chapter to record? Why?

I especially enjoyed Part Four on Love, all 9 chapters! It was not only very interesting, but it allowed me to be a bit more playful with my delivery, a bit less journalistic reporter. In that same vein, I also particularly enjoyed Chapter 3 discussing Fables & Fiction.

What was the most difficult chapter to record? Why?

Chapter 7 – So You Think You Are Free was rather challenging from both a narration and editing perspective due to its length. One of the things that narrators must be particularly aware of is maintaining and communicating a certain tone and energy in order to achieve a consistent sound, especially throughout a particular chapter. Without getting into specifics, there are different factors that can affect these levels. It becomes quite challenging when reading (and editing) 44 pages that you remain cognizant of these levels. And just when you think you’re finished and you’ve mastered the narration, you listen back and say, “Oh no, I sound really tired there, I got a little sloppy with that…Redo!!”

How important is it to get the author’s feedback/input on the recording?

The author’s feedback is everything! This book is your child, and it is my responsibility to make you and your book shine!

Audiobooks and the art of storytelling

Do you work from your own home studio?

I do work from a home studio. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to think creatively! I’m very fortunate to have a very quiet environment in which to work, and to know lots of musicians and engineers who have provided some great advice along the way.

How do you prepare for a recording session? As a professional voice actor are there special techniques you use to care and condition your voice?

I’m not sure what other actors do to prepare, but I do have a routine. Being a singer, I’ve already developed good health habits, like eating well, drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated, no smoking, no alcohol, and lots of good old-fashioned sleep! Prior to narration, I have a good breakfast, my morning coffee, then typically sing for about 30 minutes just to wake up my vocal cords. That’s really about it…nothing exotic here!

How does the experience of recording an audiobook compare with the experience of recording a voice over commercial?

The biggest difference, of course, is the length of time; the difference between reading a 9-and-a-half-hour book vs. a 30-second radio spot. They both provide a great deal of satisfaction and pride when they’re completed.

What do you love most about being an artist?

I love singing, I love acting, I love reading, I love speaking. I love the versatility and freedom this profession provides in terms of allowing me to choose what I want to work on and when, working from home is a plus, and it’s also allowed me to meet some really fun and interesting people. It’s also very rewarding to know that someone enjoys listening to me read to them! God blessed me with a nice voice, I owe it to Him to put it to good use.

The key message of this blog article is that If you have a voice use!

“Don’t let fear keep you quiet, you have a voice, so use it. Speak up. Raise your hands. Shout your answer. Make yourself heard. Whatever it takes just find your voice and when you do, fill the damn silence”

Unknown Author

For those willing to give it a go use this special Promotion code

And, this my dear friend, is your Quest!

If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Want Good Things to Happen to You? Try Patience

Want Good Things to Happen to You? Try Patience

Good things do come to those who wait.”

Abraham Lincoln

People don’t like being put on hold, waiting in line, or getting stuck in traffic. In the olden days you had to wait for days for a letter to reach you through the post. Now you can send a text message across the world in a few seconds and expect a response back to you coming from the other side of the globe in no time. 

We are living in a world where easy 24/7 access to technology, laptops, smart phones, regulate the speed at which we want things done.  The expectation nowadays is for things to happen instantaneously; and when it doesn’t, we get frustrated even angry. According to a 2007 study conducted by Fuller Theological Seminar Profession Sarah A. Schnitker people who exhibit impatience and irritability tend to report more health problems and difficulty sleeping.  Being patient is a virtue that has been forgotten. In this article, I would like to help you get re-acquainted with this concept and to help me do that, I have sought advice from Mother Turtle.

Great Turtle Spirit, I seek your lessons of tremendous patience

Seeking Wisdom from Mother Turtle
  • Great turtle spirit
  • I invite you into my life
  • I seek your lessons of tremendous patience.
  • I seek your lessons of the shore
  • Lead me along that place
  • Where water touches earth,
  • The space between movement and stillness.
  • Remind me that I carry all
  • I need with me at all times.
  • Awaken my senses
  • So that I am prepared for
  • Opportunities as they arise.
  • Help me trust that all happens
  • When and how it should.
  • Shield me from harm and share
  • Your primal wisdom.
  • Please, help me remember that
  • My home is with me wherever I go.
  • Mother Turtle
  • I call to you.

The Turtle Prayer was written by Travis Bowman and published in Native History Magazine in 2013. The turtle is a sacred creature among Native American tribes. The Turtle represents longevity and teaches us the meaning of time, it encourages us to slow down the pace of our life, to be mindful, and present and to think carefully before we offer our thoughts or opinion on a particular subject. It is all about the power of divine timing and the ability to wait in a constructive manner and not to rush the results. The magic is found along in the journey as well as at the destination.

Turtle encourages us to slow down the pace of our life, to be mindful, and present

The Turtle represents creativity and abundance. Her motto is, use what you have and start where you are. Turtles are omnivorous, they eat almost anything that comes along their path, whether it be ants or a wide variety of plants or fish, and even occasional small mammals. They remind us that we are surrounded by opportunities that feed us along our path, but most people are too busy rushing around from one thing to the next to pay sufficient attention to what is right in front of their eyes. Be adaptable, awake your senses.

A turtle shell is its home and protection. The turtle reminds us to withdraw into ourselves and examine our feelings when we are bothered by the actions, inactions or words of others, and when we are getting impatient in a fast-moving world.

Patience is a gift when given or received

What is waiting? It is essentially experiencing a certain period of time without any rewards.  We have all heard of the famous marshmallow study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel at Standford University in the early 1970s, where researchers offered four-year-olds a marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they waited for 15 minutes. In that study, most children tried but failed to wait the necessary 15 minutes in order to have two treats; but for the small group of children who had enough will power to wait,  the study demonstrated that those children had higher test scores and a healthier body mass years later.  This study demonstrates the benefits and power that delayed gratification can have on our lives.

The Marshmallow Test

Waiting can drive you crazy, make you irritable, angry, frustrated, unhinged, but at the end of the day those roller coasters of emotions will not affect the outcome one inch. If things are not happening as fast as you expected it, the best thing to do is to go with the flow and make the extra time count for something. Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation; it doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people.

Patience is power.  It is a way for you to practice emotional freedom. You can choose to be annoyed and frustrated by the delay or you can choose to use the time  and turn it into something productive.  It is your choice.  It doesn’t come naturally but you can learn to transform frustration and adversity into patience.

Patience is essential to daily life and might be the key to a happy one. Having patience means being able to wait calmy in the face of frustration or adversity. So anywhere there is frustration or adversity, we have the opportunity to practice it.”

Dr Judith Orloff

For people who have little patience, all is not lost, patience is a skill that can be improved with a little bit of practice. Recent studies have been conducted in order to find out what can be done in order to increase patience; and as it happens, it all depends on the value of the reward, a person willingness to wait patiently for a reward will increase if the reward is large enough. Most people will wait for the newest-soon-to-be-released iphone because it makes total sense to wait a little to get the latest version instead of rushing to buy an old model now.

In public it is the impatient one that grabs all the attention, but patience is a skill that you practice quietly, behind close door, just like professional athletes who step away from the limelight taking some time off to heal their injury so that they can come back stronger, step back into the arena and compete another day.

To reach mastery you need patience

In the olden days, if you wanted to enter a profession you will have to find a master who will be willing to take you under his wings and enter into an apprenticeship to learn the craft.  The normal length of an apprenticeship was 10 years; learning the craft required patience, discipline and dedication. The modern concept of this is the 10, 000 hours required to master a skill as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Robert Greene calls this Mastery. He wrote a whole book about it.

Anyone who would spend ten years absorbing the techniques and conventions of their field, trying them out, mastering them, exploring and personalizing them, would inevitably find their authentic voice and give birth to something unique and expressive. Embrace slowness as a virtue in itself”.

Robert Greene

We have a tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, we are impatient and want to see results quickly, but remember “there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” The best way to cultivate our natural impatience is to cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain – like an athlete, you come to enjoy rigorous practice, pushing past your limits, and resisting the easy way out.

And this, my dear friend is your Quest

If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Want an Adventure? Then Break Free From Your Comfort Zone

Want an adventure? Break free from your comfort zone

Stepping outside your comfort zone is an art, it requires practice, dedication and will power. Nobody likes being uncomfortable, but there is a certain consensus in the self-development arena, that you have to step outside your comfort zone in order to grow as a person.

 ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’

Neale Donald Walsch

This is a fascinating concept to explore; in this article I invite you to join me on this exploratory trip where we will get uncomfortable by stepping outside our comfort zone. But before we do that, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the concept. A comfort zone is an artificial mental boundary within which we maintain a sense of security and out of which we experience great discomfort. Each one of us has our own boundaries that delineate our comfort zone, there isn’t a one size-fit-all-comfort-zone model, but what you must know is that all the comfort zone is concerned with is keeping you inside of it.

Your comfort zone is warm and cozy, but comfort kills

A lot of people will have a natural inclination for staying inside their comfort zone even if they are unhappy and unfulfilled,  first and foremost because it is familiar and safe, but most of all because they are afraid of the unknown, the risk of failure and/or being hurt. They would rather stay wrapped-up in their little cocoon, preferring staying warm and cozy.

The only problem with this is that even if you have a strong desire to stay warm and cozy forever and have no inclination to do more than is absolutely necessary, sometimes life doesn’t give you that choice. Say for example that you are perfectly happy doing your day to day job. You wake-up every morning feeling perfectly content to go to the office and do the tasks that you have been very comfortable doing for the past 15 years, surrounded by a pleasant boss and nice colleagues. At the end of the day you go home, cook dinner, relax in front of the TV with the family, before going to bed. You wake -up the next day and you do the whole thing again desperately waiting for the weekend to have some fun and some rest. You can’t get more comfortable than that. There is nothing wrong with this until one day you show up to work to find out that the office will be close next month because of some force majeure event, never to re-open. This is where your life starts feeling very uncomfortable, and before you know it you are in a total state of panic. That safety zone where you cocooned yourself for the past 15 years has just vanished with no warning.

Comfort Food – Photo by Viktor Taashuk on Unsplash

Feeling uncomfortable reading this? Fasten your seat belt, it is going to get more uncomfortable. I told you this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.  Now, let’s take a trip down Comfort-Food Lane. There is a reason why comfort food is called that. It makes you sloppy, it turns you into  a couch potato, a blob and it is totally addictive. Comfort food is enjoyable to eat and fills you with a sense of contentment in the moment, although it may not be very good for your health. So, your philosophy in life is that there is nothing wrong with affording yourself a little treat from time to time; you start with a treat here and there, and before you know it your treat is turning into a daily habit. Years later, your bad eating habit is causing you serious health concerns leading your doctor to put you on a strict diet where no treats are allowed. Now, you start feeling very uncomfortable, so much so that it makes you feel even sicker with worry.

“Nobody ever died of discomfort yet living in the name of comfort has killed many ideas, more opportunities, more actions and more growth than anything else combined. Comfort kills.”

T. Harv Eker

Be fearless, step outside your comfort zone

Fear is a valuable thing, it keeps people safe and encourages caution when caution is due, but fear can also be a limiting factor, because not everything you are afraid of should be really feared.  Statistics show that a vast majority of people work in a job that they don’t really enjoy but they stay there because it pays the bill. A lot of us have some secret ambition to develop our true passion into a lucrative business; but few people will take actuals steps to pursue their dream because of the fear of failure. My take on this, continue to work your day to day job and work on your dream as soon as you step foot outside the office.

If it works, then fantastic, you will be one of the few people who turned their dream into a reality. And if it doesn’t work, then you would have learned some additional skills that you can make good use of in your next venture, and those new skills may even help you do your normal job better. So, instead of spending hours going brain dead in front of the TV every day, step off your comfortable sofa and into your home office to work on your dream each and every day until it becomes a reality.

As soon as you step outside your comfort zone, you enter into the realm of personal development and greater achievement where you will learn how to stretch yourself, push your limits, discover your hidden potential and become the best version of yourself and doing more than you ever thought possible.

Feeling at home – Photo by Steven Feldman on Unsplash

Stepping outside your comfort zone will help you grow, but it is important that you do it properly; be mindful of not putting yourself in a situation where  you will push yourself to do something that falls way outside your comfort zone to the point of jeopardy. There is a fine line between being courageous and being stupid.

So, let’s take a comfortable walk with Professor Andy Molinski  who is a professor of organizational behavior at Brandeis University International Business School and the author of ‘Reach: A new strategy to help you step outside your comfort zone, rise to the challenge & build confidence’.

According to Molinksi there are 3 zones when it comes to comfort. The first one is the comfort zone, where you are in a familiar situation and you are experiencing very little anxiety. The second zone is the stretch zone, where you are experiencing some level of anxiety but at a point where you can turn it into motivation and good productivity level. The third zone is the panic zone where you are experiencing extreme level of anxiety and where you are feeling completely overwhelmed.

Molinski stresses that the optimal level of discomfort is in your stretch zone. It is important to understand that comfort zone is a subjective concept, and each individual has to understand their tolerance to discomfort.  Humans react to new situations differently, it is very possible that what one considers to be their stretch zone might be another’s panic zone. There are several factors that will help you determine your tolerance level, such as your values and interest, your personality and tolerance to stress. The key is to understand how you work. You need to know yourself. Having that kind of insight relies on a great deal of self-awareness and if you are unsure, the only way to find out is to experiment.

Want to change the world?

Does wanting to change the world make you step outside your comfort zone? Yes and No. To conclude this exploration trip, I would like to take you to China where we will follow in the footstep of a young Chinese man who was consumed with the desire to change the world.

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

This is the story of an ambitious young Chinese man who on this 20th birthday became consumed with the desire to change the world. He spent the next 20 years trying to do that but couldn’t.

At age 40, he settled for trying to change China. He spent the next 20 years trying to do that but couldn’t.

At age 60, he settled for trying to change his village, and for the next 20 years, he tried to do just that, but failed.

At age 80, he decided to focus on changing this family, so he spent the next 20years trying to do that but couldn’t.

At age 100, he decided to focus on changing himself. After all these years, he came to realize that by changing himself first that would change his family, then his village, his province, impacting his country and ultimately changing the world. But the next day. He died.

Be the Change you want to see in the world

And this, my dear friend is your Quest.

If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Who Knows What’s Good or Bad? A Blessing in Disguise

Who Knows What’s Good or Bad? A Blessing in Disguise

Sometimes its difficult to know what’s good or bad. Being wise is a good quality, most of us don’t think of ourselves in those terms, we prefer giving those attributes to some ancient philosophers, sages, or monks, but not us surely, that would be too pretentious borderline arrogant. However, each of us harbor bits and pieces of wisdom that lay deep inside of us; but if we work on this a little, we can bring those morsels of wisdom to the surface.

There are two ways to learn valuable life lessons that will teach us to become a little bit smarter and wiser. The first method is through trial, errors and personal experience and the second method is through story telling.  The downside of the first method is that it will no doubt brings you a fair amount of pain and suffering, which is something that we all want to avoid as much as possible. Learning valuable life lessons through someone else’s struggle and ordeal is a much less painful way to go about it whilst still bringing the same benefits. And that is where story telling comes in the frame. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others.

I am going to tell you one of those stories. Its author is unknown, but it originates from the Taoist tradition; and although this story is thought to be more than 2000 years old, it really speaks to our human condition and it has a great message to it. It is the story of a farmer and his horse.

Who knows what’s good or bad?

A long time ago, there was a kind old man who lived on the plains outside the Great Wall of China. The gentle old man had only two passions in his life: collecting rare breeds of horses and his son, whom he loved more than anything else.  The old man and his son would ride their horses every day. They would travel great distances to trade horses, meet new people, and enjoy the good fortune that life had bestowed upon them.

One morning, a servant left the stable door open and one of the old’s man’s favorite stallions escaped. When the neighbors heard the news of the stallion’s escape, they came to comfort the old man. They told him that they were sorry he had such bad luck.

But strangely enough, the gentle old man was not upset. He explained to his neighbors that losing the horse wasn’t necessarily bad luck. There was no way to predict that the horse would escape, it just happened, and now there was nothing that could be done about it.

Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the old man refusing their sympathy. And indeed, a few days later his horse returned, bringing with him a rare and valuable white mare. When the neighbors heard of the old man’s good luck, they quickly came to congratulate him. But again, the old man was not excited.

Rejecting their congratulations, the old man said: “Who knows what’s good or bad?” and as it happened a few days later the old’s man’s son was attempting to tame the white horse and ride it, he was thrown from it and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to the old man’s house to give their sympathy for the bad luck that had befallen his son. One of the neighbors suggested that the old man sell the mare before any more bad luck could happen, and others said that he should take his revenge and kill the mare. However, the old man did neither. He explained to the neighbors that he should not feel sorry for his son, nor anger towards the mare. It was purely an accident that could not be predicted, and there was nothing that he or they could do to change it.  

“Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the old man. A few weeks later, the army came to conscript all the able-bodied men to fight a war against the neighboring province, but the old man’s son was spared because of his broken leg.

Who knows what’s good or bad?

Moral of the story

We all have a tendency to label experiences good or bad. We see the world in terms of black or white, right or wrong, but in reality, there is a lot of shades of grey in between. What this story is telling us is that we shouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusion and make judgment on a person or a situation.

Who knows what’s good or bad?

There is a symbol that the Taoists use to describe this concept of who knows what’s good or bad, it is the symbol of Yin and Yang. The Yin is the black swirl, and the yang is the white one, and each side as a dot of the opposite color inside. Everything contains the seeds of its opposite. Darth Vadar has the seed of goodness and Luke has the potential to follow his father to the dark side. Water flowing calmy in a river is Yin but when it turns into rapids and flow over the waterfall, it is very much Yang.

Yin and Yang is a concept of dualism, describing seemingly opposite or contrary forces that may actually be complimentary, interconnected and interdependent; and that surely is a good thing. Isn’t it? But some people may think of this interconnectedness as a bad thing, preferring to live in a world where duality, oppositions and conflicts are their preferred route because it justifies their existence.

Who knows what’s good or bad?


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Learn to Love Self-Help

Do You Want to Talk About Marriage? Yes, I Do.

Do You Want to Talk About Marriage? Yes, I Do

One of my very good friends, Todzia Aird from Edmonton, Canada, is a marriage commissioner. Love is her business. She tells me that getting married is still in vogue. I love weddings, it is such a beautiful occasion and the perfect excuse to splash out on fabulous outfits and jewelry. I also like seeing the bride being at the center of attention for a whole day surrounded by a small army of professionals doing her hair, make-up, and nails. Then there is the catering, being driven around, taking pictures throughout the whole event making sure to show the couple at their most fabulous. What a day! Who wouldn’t want to have a day like this?

Depending on where you live and what your religious practice is, you will need an official to perform the ceremony. Religious Christian weddings are officiated by a pastor or a priest. Jewish weddings are presided over by a rabbi and in Islamic weddings, an imam is the marriage officiant. Religious ceremonies are not the only way to get married, you can make things official in a civil ceremony which will be conducted by a mayor, a judge, a Justice of the Peace, or a Marriage Commissioner.

Todzia Aird, Marriage Commissioner, Edmonton, Canada

Wedding ceremonies are all about the bride and the groom surrounded by their friends and family, but in this article I would like to take the focus off them and shine the light on the person who officiates.

Marriage hasn’t always been what it is now

Through history, the institution of marriage went through three different stages of evolution. The first stage was all to do with survival of the species and the protection of property rights. In the olden days, marriage was designed to secure an environment for the perpetuation of the species through a system of rules to handle property rights and the protection of the bloodline. The institution of marriage handled these needs and was purely designed to promote the survival and economic prosperity of both families.

During the Victorian era, romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and couples spent a huge amount of time and energy in the rituals of courting and finding romantic ways to express their love, affection and loyalty to their chosen ones. In this period, the new ideal was to marry for love and live happily ever after.

Love, particularly the long-lasting kind, has been called one of the most studied and least understood areas in psychology. This fundamental domain of human existence remains somewhat a mystery, but what we do know is that being in love and being married are good for your physical and mental health.

In this modern era, the institution of marriage is now evolving into a third stage, also known as self-expressive marriage. Nowadays, marriage resolve around self-expression, we seek not just love but mutual personal growth. We want partners who are able and willing to help us explore our feelings and our identity, partners who can help us bring out our most authentic selves.

Let’s take a trip to Edmonton, Canada to meet my friend Todzia and ask her a few questions.

How did you become a marriage commissioner?

Marriage Commissioners come from different walks of life; some are retired politicians, school principals, doctors. It is not just a question of applying for the job, you have to be appointed by the Provincial Government. My life experiences seemed to fit perfectly for me to be nominated to this position. A whole chunk of my professional career has been around weddings. When I started, I was behind the camera, now I am in front of it sharing the stage with the bride and the groom. I spent 20 years running my own business videotaping weddings. What qualified me for the job is my natural ability for public speaking, good negotiation and marketing skills, a willingness to serve my community, and my ability to understand different cultures. All this put together put me on the path to become a Marriage Commissioner. Since my appointment in 2009, I had the pleasure of officiating over 1,200 civil marriage ceremonies.

Do people still want to get married and why is it important?

Yes, believe it or not, many people still want to make that commitment❤️. Getting married is not just reserved for the young ones. When you are in love, age is not an issue. I married high school sweethearts, couples who already had children, couples who spent a lifetime living together and then deciding to make it official with a wedding ceremony with their children and grandchildren in attendance. I married couples where the husband was a soldier on the eve of being sent on a military tour to the Middle East and to Africa. The oldest couple I married, the groom was 84 and the bride 76. Being a widow or a widower does not mean the end of your love life, getting a second chance at love is something that is beautiful and should be celebrated.

Life can be complicated sometimes, and couples can go through many ups and downs. I married couples who were once married, divorced, married to someone else, divorced then came back to each other to remarry. As long as love is around, I am around to officiate and make them husband and wife even if it is for a short period of time. I will never forget the ceremony I conducted for a couple who had lived together for 35 years; the groom had cancer and had only a couple of months left to live. The ceremony was conducted in the living room of their home with their two adult children as witnesses. It was heartbreaking but also beautiful. The last thing that the groom wanted to do before he passed was to become a husband and make the love of his life his wife.

Marriage is something that is beautiful and should be celebrated

This is a good segment to mention the fact that in addition to being a marriage commissioner, I am also a funeral celebrant. Funerals are usually sad and somber events; when people book me to officiate as a celebrant the emphasis is on celebrating the life of the deceased by recalling happy memories and having friends and family giving beautiful testimonies. Those ceremonies are really special. I have clients who told me how the ceremony helped their mourning process in a very positive way.

[Author Joanne Reed. Note to self: Make sure to leave some instructions to my daughters to organize a ceremony/party for me when the time comes to celebrate my life and not focus so much on the dying part.]

What is the most unusual wedding venue you have officiated at?

Everyone has got in mind an image of the perfect wedding venue for their perfect wedding subject of course to the limitation of their budget. But you don’t need to go all fancy in order to have an unforgettable wedding in a magical setting. I have officiated inside a home or apartment or a barn, backyards, city parks and provincial parks, legislative ground, acreages, golf courses, historical buildings, parks, community halls, river cruises, trains, coffee shops, restaurants, hotel ballrooms, churches (yes, some churches have allowed a civil ceremony to take place). The most original ceremony I performed was outside the city in a small plane. There were 15 people in this plane. As we reached the top height, the ceremony started. Right after the couple signed the legal document, they jumped out of the plane. There were beautiful parachutes floating in the sky with the sign just married. I was asked to jump too but I decided not to. I was a flight attendant in the past but that job did not require jumping out of the plane. This is a new rule of mine “ I will officiate in any venue of your choice with the caveat that I will not be required to jump out of a plane!”

Everyone has got in mind an image of the perfect wedding venue

Is the Canadian weather kind to newlyweds?

The weather in Alberta province changes very quickly. In one day, you can have sun, wind, clouds, rain, snow and even hail. Therefore, couples are very prepared for unusual weather on their wedding day. If the couple wishes to have an outdoor location which I call Location 1, then I automatically ask where is Location 2 (in case of rain, snow or hail). Everyone seems to dread a rainy wedding but one of the most beautiful ceremonies that I officiated was in the biggest downpour ever. And it was the most beautiful wedding ever. It was in a couple’s parents’ backyard, under a large, white, wedding tent. This was an evening ceremony where small candles were lit on very beautifully decorated tables with the rain pouring all around us. While I officiated the ceremony, you could hear the rain in the background. It was so magical. Brides always fear rain on their wedding which no one can control, I say it is good luck.

Wedding weather, you can’t predict it, but you can prepare

What do you think are the key ingredients for a successful marriage?

For me the Key ingredients are, mutual respect, good daily communication, don’t be patronizing and resist the urge to order your spouse around, appreciate what you have in common but also appreciate the differences, move through different chapters of lives together, think of your marriage as a garden that needs to be tended to daily and be prepared for different seasons, some days are rainy and some are sunny.

Key ingredients for a successful marriage

Is love the most important thing in marriage?

There is a long section in your book about love that was an eye-opener to me. Of course, I was aware of different Love but not to the extent you so beautifully wrote. The different categories and examples of historical events to back them up were very interesting and educational. I really think that young couples who are getting married should read your book, it is like an introductory course to relationships for single or married couple. You said in your book that people spend so much time and energy trying to find love and so little time in learning how to maintain it. This is so true. Getting married is the beginning of a wonderful adventure that will last a lifetime, so once the wedding and honeymoon are behind you there is still lots to look forward to and that is your life together each and every day whether it is a sunny or rainy day outside. Another reason why young people should read your book is because it really teaches you to know yourself before you commit to share your life with another person. When people get married, there is a tendency to lose your own identity under the label of wife and mother, but you should not forget your own identity even when you become a wife and a mother; and I thought that your book illustrated this point quite well.

In closing I would like to thank Todzia for sharing some of the precious memories she has collected over the years as a marriage commissioner.

My take on this is best summarized by a famous quote by Charles Franklin:

“No one gets out of this life alive. So, leave a footprint of your choice. You are writing your epitaph. You are writing it now! Life is a process, not a goal. Live it now, or you will miss it! We have time to spend and no time to waste.”

Charles Franklin

And this, my dear friend, is your Quest.


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For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
About the Book Self-Help

Self-Help Books Can Become Bestsellers, But Do They Actually Work?

Self-help books can become bestsellers, but do they actually work?

The self-help book market is worth over $10 billion dollars per year in the USA alone with twice as many books sold in 2019 than just 7 years earlier. With an ever-growing flock of followers who want clear answers to their questions, clear solutions to their problems and clear paths to follow along the road to a happy and successful life.

Psychologists, life coaches, gurus, and authors are filling up conference rooms, bookstores, social media platforms with their contents.  Consumers of self-help materials are all looking for the same thing, the secret to a happy, healthy and prosperous life.  

The most successful self-help books of all time are: 

  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Over 80 million copies sold.
  2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Over 65 million copies sold.
  3. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Over 50 million copies sold.
  4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kyosaki. Over 25 million copies sold.
  5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Over 25 million copies sold.

Do self-help books help? Looking at those figures, the answer seems to be a definite yes. But despite those compelling sales figures, some people find the effectiveness of self-help books debatable. Personally, I find them very useful; but I am totally biased on this subject-matter not only because self-help books are my favorite genre as a reader, but I am also the author of a self-help book titled This is Your Quest. Your Mission: To Experience Happiness Along the Way.

Let’s look at both sides of the argument and see where this leads us.

Are self-help books a waste of time and money?

The main argument against self-help books is that they don’t work. Some people argue that reading self-help books is like taking drugs; it makes you feel good for a little while but that feel-good factor doesn’t last very long. Initially, people will enjoy reading those books because they get lost in a sea of wisdom, advice, suggestions, new habits, new affirmations, but  once they have ingurgitated all that advice and new-found wisdom life resumes its normal course and soon they get lost in a sea of daily grind and forget about all those new habits they swore by a week ago. 

It is true that knowing without doing is like not knowing at all, and from this angle I tend to agree with the argument that self-help books don’t work. Most of the advice that is given in those books make perfect sense, but unless the reader decides to apply those advice consistently and diligently, reading those books will not change their lives one inch. Unfortunately, a large majority of people fall trap to this behavior. 

It is common knowledge that to lead a healthy life you need to eat healthy, exercise, practice your daily affirmations by thinking positive, be mindful and present in the moment, get in touch with your inner-child,  love yourself, and practice the art of being grateful. That is about it really. But If everyone already knows all of that why do you need a book to tell you those things that you already know? It is a fair point.

Self-help books; a sea of wisdom, advice, suggestions, new habits, new affirmations

So, why are people still reading those books? It is much easier to keep yourself in a state of preparedness by reading those books, taking notes and visualizing the amazing result you will get at the end, than actually doing the deed. Reciting positive affirmations every morning will not change your life if you are not following up with an action plan.  You have to be more intentional in your approach to self-help.

I am of the opinion that one size doesn’t fit all. We are all different, we all have different issues, different perspectives, different circumstances. I believe that it is not a waste of time and money to read self-help books, because you can learn from the successes and mistakes of others without having to make those same mistakes, giving you a huge advantage. However, at the end of the day, it is up to you to find the answer that applies to your own circumstances; after you have read those self-help books, you will operate from a more informed vantage point, having gained some knowledge, wisdom and clarity in the process. Nobody else can be happy for you, you have to figure it out yourself.

The types of people who read self-help books

There are two types of people who read self-help books.

  1. People who are going through personal, financial or emotional crisis, those who have suffered from traumas, or those who feel unfulfilled and very dissatisfied with their current situation. Their expectation is that reading those self-help books will increase their happiness level from bad to good.
  2. People who haven’t got any major issues with their life, they are curious, they have an open-mind, they want to improve and learn how to be the best version of themselves, they want to turn their life around and increase their happiness level from good to great and for the best students their expectation is to turn their happiness level from great to awesome.

We are constantly in the process of creating ourselves. Reading self-help books is a commitment to yourself; when the person is ready for action, self-help books can be part of a genuine life transformation. For the skeptics, they can also lay the foundations for the change that could happen in the future. The idea is to plant that seed, it will take some time to germinate but eventually it will grow slowly but surely.  It is just a matter of time.

Self-help books; plant a seed

We cannot force someone to hear a message they are not ready to receive, but we must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.’

Unknown Author

There are many reasons why you should try to develop yourself

Whatever your personal circumstances, there are many reasons why you should read self-help books.

  • Expand your horizon. You don’t know everything, and you haven’t done everything. There is so much that you don’t know and haven’t experienced yet. People tend to live within the comfort of their own echo chamber, doing the things that are familiar to them, connecting with people they know, reading the books that everybody else is reading. There is nothing wrong with living within your comfort zone, but there is so much more out there. Have an explorer mindset, go and explore the world.  This might sound like a big feat, but you don’t even have to leave your house; books can take you anywhere you want to go. Explorers have the ability to leave comfort and certainty behind them. They are in a continual search of new ideas and new ways of thinking. 
  • Build your knowledge. One of the main benefits of reading self-help books is that you learn loads. The Quest for knowledge and clarity is an endless pursuit. The destination is unknown. It is all about the journey. When things get tough and confusing it’s best to  stop rest, reflect, regroup, think, re-think, learn and unlearn some of the things you learned in order to decide which road to take next. Our knowledge of the world is limited, our perception of the world is groomed by the education we receive from our parents, by our culture, by the historical period we live in, by the rigidity of our mind. Have an open mind.
  • Give you access to free mentorship. Reading about people’s successes and failures and what they have learned from them is an excellent short-cut to acquiring wisdom without having to experience those same mistakes yourself. Books are a way to have access to the best minds that have ever lived. Need a mentor? Read the words of your favorite authors and role models.
  •  Give you Inspiration and motivation. Well-chosen words can breathe hope into you when your spirit is broken and revive you when your body is weary. The right words can redeem the wrong you feel, it can redeem the feeling of hopelessness that weighs heavy on your heart and can give you flight after a hard landing.

Why you should add ‘This Is your Quest’ to your reading list.

‘If you only read the books that everyone else is reading you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Haruki Marukami

There are a lot of wisdom and hidden truths out there that have been forgotten or hidden away.  I wrote my book because I had a desire to explore the ins and out of what matters, to dig deep on subjects that affect all of us and then bring them to the surface and show its significance to all the curious souls out there who have a desire to become the best version of themselves. You will find in my book a treasure trove of insights and wisdom. Words have tremendous energy and power, they can educate, heal and illuminate the mind.

This is Your Quest

For the skeptics, I refer you to the wise words of  Les Brown who pointed out: “If you want to experience a sense of fulfillment you have to have an open-mind, so that new ideas can take root. Part of having fertile ground is the ability to break up that hard crust first, because if you plant seeds there, the wind will blow them away.” My book is the tool that can help you break that crust, allowing new seeds to take root. 

This Is Your Quest is the story you want to hear. Why? Because it is your story, the one that I wrote for each and every one of you.  People should live the story they want to tell. Your life is your story, and your mission is to write the best story you can and have lots of adventures along the way. 

We wouldn’t need books so much if we knew ourselves and the people around us better. Do you know who you are? Do you know why people do the things they do? Those two questions will dictate pretty much everything that happens in your life and turn it a pleasant experience or on the contrary an unpleasant one. That is where books come in. They explain us to ourselves and to others, and makes us feel less strange, less isolated and less alone.

The Quest for clarity is an endless pursuit. We all seek it. We all want clear answers to our questions. We all want clear solutions to our problems. We all want clear paths to follow along the road to a happy and successful life. We all want to move from a state of confusion, which brings with it a lot of suffering to a state of clarity, which brings joy and happiness. 

I see my book as being a small beam of light that is shining in the distance, and I am hoping that all the curious souls out there will be drawn to it, and once they grab it will open their mind and will bring them some clarity.  

This is my hope, and this is my Quest.  Are you ready to go on your own Quest? 


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Men. Feeling shitty? Turns out it’s not just you.

A while ago, over a call, one of my friends was feeling shitty, he called me to tell me about his nightly routine. The conversation started light-heartedly, but midway through I noticed something odd about his habits and, in all seriousness, told him that what he was doing suspiciously mirrored patterns of behavior in people with OCD. He brushed me off, but I took a few minutes to look up common symptoms of OCD, asked him a few more questions, and became increasingly concerned about the well-being of my friend. 

I’m no psychiatrist, but as I continued to ask him about other parts of his life I realized that this guy was in serious need of a therapist. I sat there for a long time trying to convince him that the things he was experiencing were serious and that he should go talk to someone professional, but he sat there and batted away everything I had to say quickly and unforgivingly. After a long conversation with absolutely no progress, I found myself frustrated, and not just at my friend. I couldn’t stop asking myself: why do men have such a hard time talking about their feelings? 

This is a sentiment I’ve thought many times but often felt bad for; It felt overgeneralized, unfair, and a tad offensive. However, after doing some more research, I’ve realized that this is not just the nonsensical ramblings of extremist feminists or even that much of an overgeneralization. 

As it turns out, there’s actually a good amount of research and agreement amongst the academic community to suggest that many men’s emotional intelligence, emotional literacy, or simply their ability to sort through and manage their emotions is dangerously low and responsible for a lot of problems for themselves and society.

Is this a problem that all men have? Of course not. Does the lack of emotional literacy in women also create problems? Of course it does. However, it’s the male aspect of this issue that does not get enough discussion and should be talked about bluntly.

Depression, suicide, and alcohol: the facts 

Before I lose you or make you angry, I’ll bring in a couple facts. According to the National Institute of Mental Health in America, the rate of suicide amongst men is notably higher than that of women. However, the prevalence of diagnosed mental illness amongst men is, strangely, much lower than women. These two statistics considered together could mean two things: there are far more men than we know who are feeling shitty, or have mental illnesses and do not come forward to get diagnosis and treatment and/or there is a very high number of men who don’t have a mental illness but are so emotionally unequipped to deal with their emotions that it becomes enough to destroy them. Either way, there is an issue. 

Depression, suicide, and alcohol: the facts

What’s more, is that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the CDC, men are two to three times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than women, men die as a result of alcohol-related accidents almost twice as much as women, and depression and suicide are ranked amongst the top causes of death for men in many first-world countries. The link between alcoholism and depression is widely accepted. 

How do men’s problems cause society’s problems? 

Obviously, the tendency to avoid emotional problems and let depression manifest is enough to ruin someone’s life and has proven time and time again to lead to the end of one, and this is an issue that individuals and societies both have to deal with. However that tendency is bound to affect people other than the one suffering from it. 

Studies from the University of Rochester and many others have found that men, more so than women, will express aggressive behavior as a symptom of their depression, taking form in anything from verbal abuse to physical force. It is also widely accepted that depression and mental illness is strongly linked to violent crime. The National Health Society in the UK estimates that someone suffering from depression is three times more likely to commit violent crime than someone who is not depressed. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that in almost every country/society to date, men make up the large majority of criminals. 

In short, many men are suffering from poor mental health and are not able to manage their emotions properly or do not get the help to do so and, as a result, are killing themselves at significantly high rates, often severely harming those around them, and if not one of those two, are finding themselves living unhappily. 

Everything considered, it seems like we can attribute some of society’s biggest problems like alcoholism, general crime, domestic violence, and rape — all things that will take a serious toll on someone else — to unresolved emotional issues. At least to an extent. 

To make matters worse, when depression does take form in aggression and crime, the justice system usually does more harm than good. The prison environment in many countries focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, leaving many men who find themselves in prison as a result of their depression/mental illness induced bouts of aggression and crime depressingly likely to find their mental health deteriorating at rates quicker than ever and end up back in a cell or under six feet of dirt.  

Obviously, not all men who are depressed will commit a crime. To make the general claim that a depressed or mentally ill man will inevitably end up as a violent, harmful criminal would simply be inaccurate. However, it’s hard to deny the significance of the association between the two. 

Personal thoughts: insecurity 

At this point, it’s understood that depression is a big part of the problem. However, depression is a broad term that can be caused by a number of factors. The tendency for men to succumb to heavy substance abuse is indicative of a need to distract themselves from problems rather than solve them, which easily leads to depression. However, it is my personal belief that male insecurity is a plague for men’s mental health everywhere that often goes unnoticed and undiscussed. 

Insecurity, body image issues, and appearance insecurity are typically associated with women, and for good reason. Women suffer from eating disorders at a rate much higher than men and there is no doubt that there is and has been a strong societal pressure for women to look a certain way; matters are made worse by how often a woman’s worth is decided according to how she looks. These are still serious, relevant issues, but luckily, there has been good progress in appreciating the beauty, talent, and worth in all kinds of women. For the most part, men have not received the same attention. 

Many companies have shifted their branding and advertisements to include plus size women and different beauty standards, but the story is not the same for men who are plus size or who are not traditionally handsome. How many ads have you seen with a man who isn’t square-jawed, tall, and fit? 

Hollywood is also guilty of objectifying men almost as much as women. Although actors who do not fit the part of the handsome protagonist can often bank on playing the funny guy or eccentric nerd, the actors who do take those hot lead roles often face difficulties. Actors who film shirtless or intimate scenes are often asked to dehydrate themselves before shoots in order to get the most ripped look possible. This is unarguably unhealthy and sets unrealistic expectations even for men who are fit. 

Where there are issues within industries, there are also issues within male groups. Women have done a great job of creating a culture of support amongst themselves. For women, it is a very easy and normal thing to tell a friend that they look good or to put a few nice comments under an instagram post. It is even commonplace for compliments to be thrown around in conversations with complete strangers. For most women, the same network of support extends to emotional problems, whether it be insecurity, depression, relationships, or anything in between. To my understanding, this culture is almost nonexistent within groups of men. 

I’ve had guy friends tell me that they hold on to compliments they got years in the past because getting one is so rare, and I’ve seen posts on instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter expressing the same thoughts that gathered millions of likes, reshares, and comments agreeing. Think about how normalized telling your wife or girlfriend she’s beautiful every day is, or how common hyperbolic compliments like “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world” are. Clearly, there is a disparity. 

Insecurity about appearance or self-worth is a problem on it’s own, but what happens with some men is an ugly overcompensation for such insecurities with fragile ego-fueled arrogance, lashing out, and flaunting. It sounds a bit contradictory, but give it a thought.

In the words of psychologist Michael J. Formica, “The bully is the weakest one on the playground.” 

“The bully is the weakest one on the playground”

Feeling shitty. Why are things like this? 

Whether they admit it or not, most men who are feeling shitty also feel a pressure to present themselves as tough, ‘macho,’ and manly, which, for whatever reason, also means not feeling or succumbing to strong emotions. In the words of an article from the American Psychological Association:

 “The socialization of masculine ideals starts at a young age and defines ideal masculinity as related to toughness, stoicism, heterosexism, self-sufficient attitudes and lack of emotional sensitivity (Wall & Kristjanson, 2005), and of connectedness.” 

This is what you would call a gender role, and it has been perpetuated by media, society, and men and women alike for decades. These traits are not inherently dangerous, but when they are prioritized over mental health, well-being, and emotional stability (as they have been), they most certainly are. 

As the previously mentioned article from APA explains, “The possibility of negative effects of harmful masculinity occurs when negative masculine ideals are upheld.”

I could take the time to explain how these mediums convey this message, but frankly, you are probably already aware of it. TV shows, movies, magazine, music, books, and now platforms like Instagram often have these ‘macho men’ at the center of attention. These ideals are so withstanding that they’ve also been passed down through generations of parenting, coaching, teaching, and more. 

A recent trend in media that has also helped perpetuate this negative male gender role is making a joke out of male depression. Those my age will know what I’m talking about (think Will Smith), but for those who are not familiar, it is very common to see images of real men experiencing real pain used as a punchline for a joke. In most cases the depression itself is the punchline. 

One could argue that there isn’t much harm in something many people find funny or that those jokes could pass as dark humor. However, from my interaction with these jokes I can confidently say they do not fall into the realm of dark humor. They are very popular and common-place. Of course making jokes online in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but they undoubtedly play into the normalization of the idea that male depression is something to laugh about rather than be taken seriously. 

This idea of masculinity is heavily ingrained into society, but the sad reality is that it hasn’t done much good for anyone. 

What can we do about it? 

Although calling this a men’s issue might imply this is a male problem that men need to fix on their own, that is definitely not the case. As much as individual men need to look within themselves, realize the faulty ideas they’ve been conditioned to follow, come to terms with their emotions, and get help, women and the rest of society/media need to create an environment where that is okay. 

That said, I do feel that there has been progress. I am definitely not the first to spread this message and my interactions with mainstream media has shown me that modern platforms like Tik Tok, Twitter, and Youtube are slowly making men and mental health a much more normalized idea. Even large franchises like Avengers have done their part in having many of their strong male leads showcasing healthy emotion. The Joker movie is all about a man suffering from his mental illness and it was one of the highest grossing movies of 2019. 

If truth be told, the recognition of poor male mental health is probably more normalized now then ever. On any given day you might see a high-profile celebrity coming forward to speak about their struggles with mental health, popular movies depicting the struggles men face, or a number of songs about the same topics. I could list 100 male-sung songs off the top of my head that are about their pain and struggles. A man’s willingness to be vulnerable has also become a key component for what the modern woman asks for in her partner, but even with all that, men are still struggling.

There is definitely much room for progress for everyone in taking male issues seriously; feeling shitty is not the norm, but It seems to me that men themselves are the last ones to really consider the idea that being strong means dealing with your emotions rather than not feeling any. 


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

How to overcome herd mentality and not be sheeple

How to overcome herd mentality and not be sheeple

In order to stay sane our brains creates the illusion that all our thoughts are completely rational and independent. But, no matter how independent-minded you think you are, it is easier – and unknowingly more seductive – to follow a widely-accepted dogma, than create your own. Most people are sociable and have a natural desire to be accepted, rather than being stigmatized as outcasts. Therefore, following a group is an ideal way to become a member, but how can you follow a group and overcome herd mentality and its negative impacts?

Herd mentality in financial crises

The bursting of the internet bubble is one of the most infamous financial events in recent history. The crash that followed saw the Nasdaq index, which had risen five-fold between 1995 and 2000, tumble from a peak of 5,048.62 in March 2000, to 1,139.90 in Oct 2002, a 76.81% fall. By the end of 2001, most dotcom stocks had gone bust.

Investments favored by the herd can easily become overvalued, as high investment values are usually based on optimism and not fundamentals. Financial markets have experienced this type of event on many occasions, from tulip mania in the 1600s, the great depression, and the last global economic downturn caused by the collapse of the subprime mortgage markets in 2007.

Herd mentality in financial crises

How can something so catastrophic happen again and again?

The answer to this question can be found in that same human attribute: herd mentality. It represents the tendency of investors to imitate the actions (rational or irrational) of a large group of investors. Individually, most traders would not necessarily make the same choice.

More examples of herd mentality

To further illustrate the mentality of the herd inside us, psychologists from Harvard University showed men different pictures of women and asked them to rate each one according to its beauty. The men then saw what they were told was the group’s average score for each photo – but in reality it was a random computer-generated score.

Thirty minutes later, they were asked to re-evaluate the photo, while what was going on in their brains was being watched. Unsurprisingly, their new score came close to the consensus, and those who had to raise their initial score – deciding that the woman was more beautiful than they had originally decided – took greater brain activity than generating their initial scores.

What is herd mentality?

A herd, as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, is a large group of animals of the same type that live and feed together. Aristotle, the legendary Greek Philosopher, said that Man is by nature a social animal, inferring that humans prefer living within a group than alone. From this vantage point, it seems perfectly appropriate and not at all demeaning to describe herd mentality as the tendency of people to conform to the behavior or beliefs of the group to which they belong.

The science is clear, numerous studies demonstrate the actions of a large group greatly influence an individual’s decision. Herd behavior suggest there are limits to human free will. Pushed by the herd, people act the same way or adopt similar behaviors as people around them ignoring their own feelings in the process.

Are most humans ‘sheeple’

Sheep are docile, compliant, kind, and quite pleasant animals – and very tasty too. Being described as a sheep, however, certainly has pejorative connotations, but most of us are more sheepish than we might like to admit. How many of us watch 3-4 hours of television each day, believe the political-minded media is telling us the truth, or buy something just because it is a fad?

Are most humans ‘sheeple’

“If one sheep bolts for no reason, the majority if not the entire flock is likely to do the same thing. The only thing with a more questionable intelligence than a sheep is the idiot that chooses to raise sheep. They are dumb. Really really dumb.”

Dacelle Peckler, Veterinarian and sheep raiser

A study conducted by Professor Krause at the University of Leeds showed that humans flock like sheep and birds. In his experiment Professor Krause asked groups of people to walk randomly around a large hall with a select few receiving additional instructions about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to communicate and had to stay a minimum arm’s length from everyone else. As the experiment unfurled the informed individuals ended up being followed by others in the crowd. Actions taken by a minority of just 5% of informed individuals influenced the behavior of 85% of the remainder of the group, and – more importantly – without them even realizing.

Professor Krause’s experiment showed that in a group setting humans have a propensity for copying behavior. This copying can sometimes lead to a type of collective madness when ineffective or harmful knowledge goes viral. The scientific term for this is maladaptive herding.

“Most people would rather be wrong within the company of the herd, than be right outside of it.”

Maladaptive herding can make groups of animals, like sheep – or lemmings, make critically stupid decisions like plunging over a cliff. But in other groups of animals, such as honey bees, herd mentality can help make crazily smart decisions.

Honey bees, a different type of herd mentality

Honey bees are known for their ability to work together in a group and collectively make decisions in the search for food or sites for new nests. Perhaps lesser known is how honey bees use their communication system to allow good decisions to spread and not to follow bad ones. Good decisions go viral! How do they do that?

Austrian behavioral biologist Karl Von Firsch found that worker bees use a kind of waggle dance to communicate with other bees. These waggle dances are bees’ version of online shopping ratings system; instead of stars or good reviews the ratings are based on the duration of the dance. When bees find a good source of food, they dance for a long time. When the source is poor the dance only lasts a short time or is non-existent.

Honey bees, a different type of herd mentality

With this very sophisticated – and rather fun communication system – honey bees can skillfully identify the most profitable nectar sources amongst the sites they have visited and can also rapidly shift their foraging efforts following updates from other bees in the colony. The beauty of this system is that even if each forager only knows about its own nectar source, together they generate a coherent colony-level response that enables better resources to be exploited and poorer ones to be abandoned.

When bees happily dance the night away the information quickly goes viral and other bees will congregate to that spot! This behavior is neither triggered by a control center nor enforced by hierarchy, rather it results from effective communication or copying, otherwise known as social learning.

Humans, sheep or bees?

Groups of humans sometimes exhibit collective wisdom but at other times suffer from madness of the crowd. Understanding this apparent conflict has been a longstanding problem in social science. Dr Wataru Toyokawa from the University of St Andrews in Scotland published a paper titled Social Learning Strategies regulate the wisdom and madness of interactive crowds to help explain this phenomena.

In Dr Toyokawa’s experiment, hundreds of online volunteers were asked to participate in an online game and repeatedly play one of three slot machines, the mission being to win as much money as possible. At the start no-one knew that one slot paid out more than the others, but – as they could see what other players were doing in real time – quickly learned to copy and play the same machine as the high-winners. Halfway through the experiment, when there was a high degree of conformity and without informing the participants, the organizers changed the slot with the highest pay-out. The players didn’t learn or change behavior but continued to play the same, now bad paying, slot for the remainder of the game.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

George S. Patton

Dr Toyokawa’s experiment shows when large groups are confronted with tough challenges collective decision making becomes inflexible and maladaptive herding behavior become prominent. As groups became larger, conformity increased and players made both poorer decisions and took longer to make the intelligent switch between slots. The results also showed that as uncertainty increased, i.e. as the choice of slots became harder, players took even longer to break away from conformant behavior.

Humans – unlike bees – it seems, are not masters of collective decision making. The popular slot became more popular because people followed the majority choice, even after it stopped being the winning one.

Social learning

As social animals, humans seek information from others when making decisions. Good marketers and social influencers perhaps know this best. When more people exhibit any given choice, be it fashion, politics, book reviews, etc., the more people will follow in tow – in the same way that people might choose to trust Instagram, Twitter, political media, or other accounts with large followings.

“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.”

Jess C. Scott, Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody

In large group setting or performing difficult tasks, humans are largely unaware of their herd instincts or sheep-like behavior. There is also a belief that the ideas of a large group cannot go wrong. But, when group size is small or there was a less challenging version of the task to undertake, people are willing to explore less popular options.

Herd mentality

Social learning is a source of collective intelligence that emerges from the collaboration or collective efforts of many individuals. To overcome herd mentality and its negative impacts, be like a bee. If you are convinced that an idea is irrational or incorrect, don’t follow the flock, avoid the madness of the crowds.

And this, my friend, is Your Quest!


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Categories
Be Happy Self-Help

The Art of Letting Go

The Art of Letting Go

On the Himalayan mountains was founded a great monastery where students were put to the most rigid tests to cast off all attachments and achieve enlightenment. Two monks of noble repute were summoned by the abbot to take a sealed letter to another leading monastery and submit it to the head abbot. Such journey was to last three days on foot, through the mountain track way down into the plain lands. They came into contact with the population who looked at them with awe due to their refreshing aura and clear eyes of a life free from material care and burden.

The art of letting go

The Obstacle Is the Way

As they strove through towns; it happened on the third day they came to a hamlet in which was a flood and the road trackless due to the excess rain water. Villagers were rolling up their clothes to pass through the water to the other side, when the monks realized that was their only optional route. As the people passed by they noticed a beautiful maiden who out of fear stood almost paralyzed at the thought of crossing and one of the monks offered to carry her on his back over the water since they were taking the same route.

His companion looked at him with horror and contempt as if to say; monks have nothing to do with women, especially touching them since they swore into the life of celibacy. But the other companion seeing the fear on her face still made the decision to break one of the rules to help the damsel in distress. He carried her over the water and out of gratitude she offered him a gift as they strove away never to meet again. His companion was rather furious and started explaining what his fellow monk has just done!

The obstacle is the way

To be or not to be Righteous

You touched a woman hence you have broken your vow of celibacy! You disobeyed the code of monastic living and you are no longer righteous! I cannot believe that you a reputable brother can make such a decision! He went on and on making a fuss about what his fellow companion had done. The other monk was absolutely silent all this while and due to the nature of such silence and calmness the other monk asked him what he had to say on the matter. His reply was simple: I dropped her ever since by the road over the flooded path and it is you who is still carrying her. Stunned by the reply he let go of the matter for the rest of the journey.

The Art of Letting Go; the Moral of the Story

The lesson found here is that we hardly let go due to beliefs, rules and habits we are so accustomed to and we rigidly abide them not adapting to the flow of each moment. As a result we appear one-sided and hold on possessively to our known position. We must learn to let go, to be highly adaptable, to see the world from a broader perspective and to know when the rules don’t apply in our expression of compassion and empathy.

This story, the art of letting go, was written by author Solomon Durkwa. Solomon’s passion is writing, you can find his work at his Life Of Wisdom Blog. His favorite quote:

Allow things to unfold, like an arrow you hit the mark when you follow the course of destiny”.

Copyright 2020 © Love Of Wisdom Blog


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For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

What You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

What You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

I am the mother of two teenage daughters, Maya (17) and Alizé (15). I was scheduled this month to give a motivational speech at their high school to kick-start Career Week about what you want to be when you grow up. Unfortunately, the whole event was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Maya, Class of 2020

Maya will graduate high school this summer; her year started with lots of excitement and anticipation, followed by a stressful period while all her college applications were submitted, and now is finishing studying at home in isolation from most of her classmates. Her senior year didn’t work out as she had planned but will remain a year to remember.

I wrote this article based on the speech I nearly gave to pass on some guidance to my daughters and the rest of her senior year while they prepare to embark on the next stage of their journey of life.

Live and Let Live

To my lovely daughters,
Live fully and courageously,
Let live and understand Human Nature,
Know yourself and your true essence.

Wake up, dress up, show up,
And do the best you can everyday,
Until You know better,
Then, when you know better,
Do better.

Treat your body as a Temple,
Attend to it everyday,
Nurture it,
Worship it.

Know that early years can be full of tears,
But I know that you are built to face those fears,
And I will always be here to send you cheers.

Do you have what it takes?
A mind of your own,
And the ability to get in the zone.

I wish you clear vision,
So that you can make good decisions,
And not be paralyzed by indecision.

To have clear vision,
Can you master your intuition?
And use it as ammunition.

So, go and shine your unique and natural light,
As bright and as strong as you can,
Be phenomenal!
Be you.

Joanne Reed

What You Want to Be When You Grow up?

What you want to be when you grow up is a difficult question and needs thinking about carefully. Being a doctor, a vet, an engineer, a lawyer, or a scientist are all great options but what if I said you should consider all of those, but also being a writer? The writer of the story of your life.

People live the story they want to tell. Your life is your story, and your mission is to write the best story you can and have lots of adventures along the way. You are both on a journey to find your own purpose and unleash your full potential.

Alizé, your story right now is called life-in-high-school’ Maya, your story will soon be called ‘life-after-high-school.

Alize, Class of 2023

Becoming successful at what you do should be part of your long-term plans. But how do you define success? It is a fluid concept. Success means different thing to different people. But for me, success comprises three key things:

  1. Success is an Iceberg. When you look at successful people what you see is often only the surface; confidence, wealth, beauty, relationships, seniority. Often, what you don’t see is what took them there: persistence, failure, sacrifice, disappointment, hard work and dedication. Thomas Edison said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” don’t forget and don’t be afraid to perspire.
  2. Success is a garden. Everything starts with an idea. “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers, or you can grow seeds.” Plant a seed in your mind and care for it, work steadily towards your goal and be strong enough not to let setbacks defeat you in the accomplishment of your purpose.
  3. Success is about overcoming adversity. No journey will ever be perfectly smooth or proceed exactly as planned. There will be ups and down and unexpected turns, you will encounter difficulties. What do you do when things get a little rough? Well, I suggest that you take advice from Maya Angelou. [I have a tremendous admiration for this phenomenal woman and actually named my fist daughter after her.]

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Maya Angelou

Story telling Time

I am a storyteller and want to tell you a story that you need to hear.

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer; the farmer was struggling to provide for his family. His hope and vision for a better future for his family was placed in a few bamboo seeds. He decided to dig hole after hole to plant the seeds then he began to take care of those seeds day after day by watering the seeds and fertilizing the ground.

The farmer decided to plant other crops around the bamboo in order to feed his family; but his real hope for prosperity remained with the bamboo. A whole year passes by … and nothing. Still the farmer continued to water the seeds and fertilize the ground every day. Another year goes by … and still nothing. His neighbors laugh at him, they mock his vision and his dreams. He begins to question himself, doubt creeps into his mind, will the bamboo ever grow?

Another year goes by … and still nothing. Three years of pouring water, energy and hope into his bamboo dream and he has nothing to show for it. One day he stands over the spot and cries in frustration. The barren ground seems to mock him yet the wind whispers hope into his ear so the farmer picks himself up and continues to water the seeds and fertilize the ground. Another year goes by … but still nothing.

Five Years have passed, and our farmer is tired. He is tired of hauling buckets of water and feeding the seeds. He is tired of seeing no results day after day. Despair rocks his soul and tears fill his eyes and he arrives home feeling defeated. But, the farmer’s darkest hour is just before his dawn as the next day, a miracle happens. The farmer sees green sprouts coming out of the ground; he cannot contain his joy and runs through the village to share the news with his family. In 6 weeks, the bamboo trees grow to 90 feet tall!

Bamboo, Five years in the making

The Moral of the story

If the farmer had stopped watering the seeds and fertilizing the ground during those 5 years, the bamboo would have died in the ground without seeing the light of day.

If you have a vision and a dream you need the discipline to take care of your dream day after day after day even if you don’t see the result straight away.

Ignore people that tell you it cannot be done.
Learned to push back on your own doubts and fears.
Learn to have faith when there is no reason to believe.
Good things take time. To face adversity you need patience, dedication, perseverance and courage.

Life Can Be a Struggle

The journey to achieve your dream will not be perfect. You will encounter setbacks, disappointment, hurdles, and hardship. In those moments, don’t despair but try to look for solutions to your problems and a clear path to follow. Being in a state of confusion adds unnecessary pain and suffering, but being in a state of clarity, brings hope, joy, and happiness.

How do you find Clarity?

  1. The first thing is to know yourself. According to the Ancient Greeks, the source of all wisdom and clarity is to know yourself. You need to know where your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can exploit your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.
  2. The second thing is to understand human nature and why people do the things they do. Being able to make good decisions will require you to predict the future, accurately perceive your present situation and have insights into the mind of the people around you.
  3. The third thing is to practice the art of being still. You won’t know who you are if your mind is in constant state of agitation and occupied by mindless distractions. Moments of solitude allow you to be more tuned-in to your intuition. Stillness means to be steady while the world spins around you. Stillness can inspire new ideas, sharpen perspective and illuminate the mind.
Clarity, see things as they are, not how you want them to be

If you do those 3 things you will find Clarity. Remember Your mind is like water. When it gets agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answers will become clear.

What Makes a Great Story?

So, what you want to be when you grow up? If you want your life to be a magnificent story, you will need clarity because clarity will make your thoughts, your emotions and your actions congruent with each other. Good stories include fun, joy and laughter, but also some drama, tears and sorrow. People like stories where a superhero does wonderful deeds. Try to be your own hero, not by wearing a cape, jumping from building to building trying to save the world, but by becoming a better person everyday shining your own light into the world. So, my dear daughters, I wish you good luck and fortune on your journeys, and hope that you write the best stories that have ever been told.


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

The Art of Being Still

The art of being still

Too often our minds are caught in a cycle of stimulus and responses; The Art of Being Still may be a helpful read to help achieve an uncluttered mind. Often, the easiest way we can figure out who we are is in moments of solitude; but too many people have a fear of solitude. Some thinkers have suggested that the fear of solitude is at the root of the fear of oneself.

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you may have seen two recent articles Do you know who you are and Why People Do the Things They Do? Both sound like easy questions, but if you spend a little time reflecting on them, the answers may not be so obvious and are what occupied Ancient Greek philosophers for most of their time. In this new article The Art of Being Still, my premise is that you won’t know who you are if your mind is in a constant state of agitation and occupied by mindless distractions.

Stillness in the storm

Solitude vs. loneliness

Solitude means the state or situation of being alone, however, being alone is sometimes a frightening idea and many people would do anything to avoid it. Humans are social creatures by nature and unfit to endure extreme cases of isolation. If we are alone for too long our mental faculties can degrade leading to a state of insanity and deep despair.

The use of solitary confinement and exile are effective tools of punishment. But our modern-day fears are not restricted to extreme cases of isolation, rather many of us fear being alone for any period of time and being alone is something to be avoided at all costs. Not only are we afraid of being alone individually, but we are also afraid of those around us who seem to be very happy in their own company. We see them as dangerous, unproductive, unsocial, or maybe even unwanted.

Henri David Thoreau spent 2 years living alone in a cabin in the woods. He found this experience powerful and insightful. For Thoreau, solitude did not mean isolation; he was not a social hermit, he had many friends whom he invited from time to time to his cabin retreat, but he rejoiced and thrived in the luxury of the quiet time that living alone in the woods granted him. Solitude was more about introspection and self-observation and finding stillness of the mind.

In true solitude you will not find loneliness

Thoreau’s period of solitude gave him the space he needed to think, he described his experience as follows:

“The challenge of living alone was really just learning how to become a great companion to oneself. In true solitude, you will not find loneliness, but self-communion, a coming together of the light and the dark aspect of yourself. People are afraid to speak to themselves. They are unable to trust the voice within and instead are persuaded to seek validation and sanction from others. Deep personal introspection is the true gift of the prosperous man and one that the majority have entirely avoided.”

Solitude & intuition

Moments of solitude also allow us to be more tuned into our intuition. Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Intuition usually involves judgment, a yes or no, but it can also give us insight into what the solution is. Intuitions and insight can come to us through many forms, a deep inner feeling, an image, a word, an inspirational thought, or from a book. Whatever forms they take; it always gives us a deep sense of inner knowing that brings clarity and joy.

If we are operating in a state of constant agitation, hustling and bustling constantly, we will not be tuned-in the right frequency to pick up those insights and receive such gifts.  Moments of solitude put us in the right state of mind, ready to accept the gift of insight with gratitude, humility, and appreciation.

The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky claims that:

“Solitude for the mind is as essential as food is for the body. In solitude we can forge our character away from the often-constricted external demands of others and maintain our independence in the relationships we cultivate thus ensuring we do not, like many today, lose our identity in them.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Stillness is the key

What does stillness mean? Stillness means to be steady while the world spins around you. Socrates tells us that philosophy begins with wonder, and wonder is rooted in stillness. Other philosophers from various schools of thought have come to a similar conclusion, namely that the ultimate destination in our life journey is to master the stillness that is required to become master of our own life.

Ryan Holiday’s book Stillness is the Key, describes the philosophy of stillness, or the art of being still, and how important stillness is for self-mastery, discipline, and focus in our modern noisy world. Stillness is an attainable path to enlightenment, excellence, greatness, and happiness, it can inspire new ideas, sharpens perspective, and illuminate the mind. Stillness slows the ball down so we can hit it, it generates a vision, helps us resist the passion of the mob, and makes space for gratitude and wonder. Stillness allows us to persevere, to succeed, a key to unlock the insights of genius. Stillness is not some soft, new-age nonsense or the domain of monks or sages but in fact an essential component to peak performance in every domain of life.

Ryan Holiday’s book, Stillness Is The Key

Among the various philosophical and religious schools, such as Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc., it is impossible not to find a philosophy of stillness that does not venerate inner peace or stillness of the mind:

“When all the wisdom of the ancient world agrees on something, only a fool will decline to listen.”

Ryan Holiday

Paradoxes of stillness

A paradox of stillness is that it requires you to think very deeply, but also clear your mind. In fact, this is not a paradox as once our mind is cleared and  emptied insights and breakthroughs can occur.

“Muddy waters clear themselves through stillness; if we let them settle the truth will be revealed to us.”

Muddy Waters become clear through stillness

Another paradox is that stillness does not require that you stop moving or even to be somewhere quiet, stillness can be cultivated while chaos swirls around you. Those moments, in a busy shopping mall or airport, when somehow all the external noise is filtered out and you feel a sense of calm and can focus on what is in your control, that, is stillness.

The ability to intentionally find stillness, in a busy environment or just by shutting your eyes and focusing your thoughts and attention on one thing, is important because we have to move and live our lives; intentional stillness takes effort.  Active stillness is effective because we can’t simply think our way to peace or pray our body into better condition.

Stillness is an important tool on your journey to find clarity. The ability to see clearly, not only when you are meditating, but in the midst of conflict when you are frustrated, angry or scared, will help you find a more logical, less emotional response, and give you choices to do things differently, or do nothing at all.

“If solitude is the school of genius, then the crowded, busy world is the purgatory of the idiot”

Edward Gibbon, Historian

A lesson in stillness

President John F. Kennedy once described himself as an idealist without illusions. More than 50 years after his tragic death, the American public still ranks him at the top modern American leaders. Kennedy is remembered not only for his youth and good looks but also as a crusader for social justice, a gifted orator and a peacemaker.

The Main Players in the Cuban Missile Crisis

Fresh after a disastrous attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis started on 15 October 1962, when the cold war between the US and the USSR was dangerously close to becoming a hot nuclear war. The CIA identified medium to long-range Soviet ballistic nuclear missiles being built on the Island of Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The two main actors in this political drama were President John F. Kennedy; a young president, born into immense privilege, with almost no executive leadership under his belt and, on the other side, Nikita Khrushchev, a much older man, born into a modest family and a veteran of the communist party.

The fate of millions worldwide depended on these two men. Kennedy’s advisors wanted to destroy the missiles site followed by a full-scale invasion of Cuba, tremendous pressure was put on Kennedy to act quickly and decisively as every second wasted risked the security and reputation of the US. Kennedy unwilling to be pressured into making a decision that was not thought through (like the Bay of Pigs fiasco), used stillness to pause, reflect, understand the bigger picture before deciding on his next move.

Kennedy had recently read Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August, a book about the beginning of World War I, which imprinted on his mind the image of overconfident world leaders rushing their way into a conflict, that once started they couldn’t stop. Kennedy recalled a passage from another book he read by strategist B. H. Liddell on nuclear strategy:

“Keep strong if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes, so as to see through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil, nothing is so self-blinding.”

Against the wishes of the majority of his advisors, Kennedy decided upon a less aggressive strategy, a naval blockade. This approach was to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba, but also to give him time to think, time to communicate, and time to understand the intentions and responses from Khrushchev.

On 22 October 1962, John F. Kennedy addressed the nation via live television broadcast. His message intended  for the domestic audience but also for the international public at large, demonstrated true statesmanship:

“The 1930s taught us a clear lesson, aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war… We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”

Peaceful resolution required concessions and a respect for humanity from both sides, but a remarkable fact about the Crisis is how calm Kennedy remained. During the tensest moments, Kennedy would seek solace in the White House Rose Garden, to clear his mind and to think. After the crisis, Kennedy thanked the gardener for her important contribution. Kennedy knew the art of being still, he did not let anyone rush him into a decision or let the pressure of the situation cloud his judgment or deter him from doing the right thing. During those times, he was the stillest guy in the room.

Summary

So, if your mind is in a constant state of agitation or occupied by mindless distractions, stillness is the move, or the change you could make to help find clarity. Hopefully, my friend, this article demonstrates the power of solitude and of being still. It is good sometimes to let the world spin around you whilst being the stillest person in the room.


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Why Do People Do the Things They Do?

At the end of an otherwise successful interview for a senior position at a new company a candidate was asked, “what motivates you?” Without barely a moment’s hesitation and with a deadpan delivery, he replied “sex, money, and fear.” The room erupted into laughter; it may have cost the candidate the opportunity, but was the answer, in fact, flippant or profound? What is it that motivates us, and why do people decide to do the things they do?

People Do Things to Fulfill Their Needs

From the beginning of history, our ancestor’s primary concern came from the necessity to survive and to find basic needs. Likely, all their key decisions were driven by the necessity to hunt for food (preferably without dying in the process), to find shelter and to have a community to interact with.

Nowadays, survival – or meeting our basic needs – is becoming less of an issue and instead of planning our days around hunting strategies we are concerned about our commuting journey, all the paperwork on our desks, meetings we have to attend, and all the decisions that we will have to make that day that will, one way or another, affect our well-being and our level of contentment.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
(Image Courtesy of Tim’s Printables)

But, our brains, genetically adapted to help us negotiate a successful course through dangerous, changing, and often hazardous natural environments, are now confronted with an overload of information and stimulation, often independent of physical reality and with positive outcomes often measured in years hence.

Making good decisions with our primitive brains requires us to balance the antithetical forces of emotion and rationality. Being able to make good decisions requires us to predict the future, accurately perceive the present situation and have insights into the mind of people around us. Optimal-decision-making is an art, and in order to be good at it, we have to understand why people (including ourselves) do the things they do. The short answer to this question is people do the things they do because they have an urge to fulfill their needs. For the long answer to this question, continue reading the rest of this article.

Need for Societal Validation

We are born with an instinct to seek the company of others for safety, feelings of self-esteem, comfort and love. We are nurtured as social creatures, grow up seeking and enjoying the company and validation of others, and can hardly make a living without group interaction. A large portion of the decisions we make are to fulfill this need for societal validation. Societal validation will sometimes requires us to behave in a certain way; being good to your parents, to your siblings, your teachers, your boss, your spouse, your neighbors and your country (even if it means dying for it).

Societal Validation

There is a huge degree of inner peace and security connected to feeling good about who we are and all of us are prone to fulfilling this need. That said, once our sense of obligation and duty has been fulfilled, we should still leave some room left to make decisions based on our own needs and not just focus on what other people want us to do. We have free will and having a right to choose to do, or not to do something, is central to our individuality and sense of self. This is where our selfish intention comes at the forefront of our decision-making process.

Emotion vs. Logic

Robert Greene, author of ‘Human Nature,’ notes that people like to think of themselves rational-thinking, strategic creatures, whereas in reality, humans are deeply irrational and more governed by emotion than logic, or anything else. A problem with this is that most of us just don’t realize to what extent emotions infect our strategies, plans, or ideas.

Logic can be riddled with paradoxes, but it is useful because it allows us to predict, define patterns and rules about the world. It helps farmers to harvest, lawyers to argue and doctors to diagnose. Perfect logic can never take you from a true premise to a false conclusion, but rarely do we – or can we – have all the facts at hand. Should we get married? What’s for dinner? Should I quit my job? These are all difficult questions to solve with logic alone. Also, humans who makes decisions with logic alone are simply, robots.

Emotions are complex and produce different physiological, behavioral and cognitive changes leading us to experience waves of joy, excitement, insecurity, doubt or anxiety. It is natural that decisions we take are influenced by our emotions; it is said that emotions drive 80% of the choices we make but sometimes some additional logic can improve our decisions.

Thinking logically is not a power that we are born with, but one that we acquire through training and practice; practice being logical. Begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to what people do or say. Train your mind to be more rational in the same way an athlete gets better and stronger through practice. Focusing on being logical, and aware of your emotions, will result in your mind becoming more flexible and resilient. With this newly acquired skill you will likely become calmer; more deliberate and less reactive and will be able to make decisions with more clarity.

Self-control is strength.
Calmness is mastery.
You have to get to a point where your mood doesn’t shift
Based on the insignificant actions of someone else.
Don’t allow others to control the direction of your life.
Don’t allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence’.
– Author Unknown –

Bad Behaviors and Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a basic form of learning, that pairs certain behaviors with rewards or punishments in certain ways. The effect is quite fundamental; addictive behaviors like smoking and gambling can be immediately rewarding because they activate areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure, which results in quick learning.

There are hundreds of examples of operant conditioning happening in your daily life. Some may be positive, but some may be negative, like eating too much sugar, smoking cigarettes, or spending too much time on Facebook. We often carry out these behaviors because we just ‘feel like it.’ It is possible to break free from these addictions using higher cognitive ‘motivators’, but perhaps the answers lies first in being aware of them and to realize that they are emotional problems.

Bad Behaviors

Self-control is an emotional problem. Laziness is an emotional problem. Procrastination is an emotional problem. Underachievement is an emotional problem. Impulsiveness is an emotional problem.

Emotional problems can only have emotional solutions. Self-Acceptance is the key. Accepting our emotions and working with them. Instead of justifying and enslaving yourself to the impulses. Acknowledge them, challenge them and analyze then, change their character and their shape. The trick is to embrace those impulses whilst not letting them go out of control.

Life Without Emotions

According to Mark Manson, Author of “The Subtle Art of Not giving a F*ck” and “Everything is F*cked,“ there is been a tacit assumption that our emotions cause all our problems and that logic must swoop in to clean up the mess; this is what he calls the ‘Classic Assumption.’ In explaining why people do the things they do, the Classic Assumption sees passion and emotion as flaws, errors within the self. Succumbing to our emotional impulses is seen as a moral failing, as a lack of self-control, as a sign of a deficient character. Manson’s premise is that the Classic Assumption is wrong and illustrates his point with a history of the frontal lobotomy.

The lobotomy was a form of brain surgery, most commonly used to treat schizophrenia, but also used on patients to reduce emotional tension, e.g. for suicidal depressives, and to reduce the symptoms of other mental disorders. The procedure became very popular and in 1949, the originator of the procedure, Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz, shared a Nobel Prize for its discovery.

Are you Depressed? You May Need a Lobotomy!

After a relatively short surgical lifespan (the Soviet Union was the first country to outlaw the procedure in 1950 stating that it was ‘contrary to the principles of humanity) it was noticed that dulling the emotions produced more than a few negative side effects; namely turning the patient into a vegetable, a living creature with no sign of depression, but a creature unable to focus, unable to make decisions, and unable to operate properly. One doctor described his patient following lobotomy as a “smiling, lazy and satisfactory patient with the personality of an oyster.”

In fact, we are moved to action only by our emotions. That is because action is emotion. Emotion is the biological hydraulic system that pushes our bodies into movement. Anger pushes our body to move; when we are angry, we have this urge to punch and kick something, to scream and shout. Anxiety pulls our body into retreat; when we feel anxious, we feel like getting into bed and bury ourselves under the duvet. Joy lights up our facial muscle. Sadness and worry create dark patches under our eyes. Emotion inspires action; the two are inseparable.

Decisions, Decisions!

So, why do people do the things they do? Because they have an urge to fulfill their basic needs, they are looking for societal validation and because they’re driven by emotion over logic. We’re not just driven by “sex, money, and fear,” but we are irrational and emotional creatures. I hope you are finding the right balance between all those conflicting forces and better understand why people do the things they do.


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