Survivorship Bias

 

I want to discuss a term known as survivorship bias. This is an occurrence in which we focus on people or things that survive while overlooking those that don’t. In other words, we have a tendency to heed a success story while dismissing stories of failure. As humans we seek convenience and shortcuts as we are conditioned to relentlessly pursue answers and solutions. So when actors and singers give out motivational speeches we are more often inclined to believe and consider their somewhat subjective advice as we ignore the less fortunate. After all why would we want to listen to someone who failed? While renowned figures are eager to share how they become successful, they often neglect to refer to a crucial factor that lead to their level of success, that of luck. After all, someone like Chaning Tatum is not the only good looking decent actor that determinedly pursued an acting career. I am sure there were thousands of actors equally good looking and talented who attempted this endeavour only to fall short. I think it’s crucially important, in such a scenario, to consider that a great amount of luck must be recognized as a defining factor. So as role models zealously give us advice on “the steps to success” I find myself asking “what about the ones that did not make it? What about the thousands of Alicia Keys, Rihannas, Bill Gates´and Steve Jobs that never made it? The ones that perhaps worked harder and also had outstanding potential yet never had the opportunity to flourish in the same way. Where are their voices and advice? I am profoundly curious to know what did NOT work as oppose to hearing the redundancy of what did. While successful people typically overemphasize the need for hard work and perseverance they often naively understate the importance of their timing and placement, otherwise known as blind luck.

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Luck

From my experience, people who plausibly earn a level of success tend to cringe at the idea that any sort of luck should be allocated to said success. Almost in the same way successful people from wealthy families may dislike being labeled as being born lucky. This is because when we associate success with luck we inadvertently suggest that a person has not earned his or her success. However, I believe this stems from a grave misconception of the word luck. Regardless of the general consensus that luck is something mystical, social science strongly suggest that, to some extent, we can manipulate luck.

 

Richard Wiseman, a reputable psychologist, conducted a ten-year experiment in which he observed 400 difference subjects with the hopes to discover what traits enabled the classification of lucky and unlucky people. Through this study he was able to generate certain behavioral profiles that attributed to people being lucky or the contrary. One illustrious experiment he did during this time was ask a group of people to determine how many pictures were in a particular newspaper during a minute countdown. Those who would counted successfully would get a $250 prize. However, he deliberately failed to mention that on the second page of the newspaper there was a bold writing that stated “STOP, there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” As Wiseman predicted, those classified as being generally lucky were mostly the ones who stopped and saw the inconspicuous hint. Through his ten year experiment Wiseman was able to classify behavioral patterns as shown below.

Unlucky people

  • Narrowly focused
  • Goal oriented
  • Seek Security/control
  • Prefer routines

Lucky People

  • Open to new experiences
  • Easily abandon routines
  • Fail often
  • Take chances

 

So here I am discussing the idea of luck in a contradictory manner. But I do so purposely to convey that luck can merely be manipulated, not controlled.

 

Timing and placement

A few years ago I used to work in a small supermarket. My responsibilities included compiling a specific group of candy brands beside the cash register. I later found out that these companies paid more for the privilege of having their brands placed more explicitly. What I noticed was that the smaller brands suffered as they were placed less strategically. As expected, customers came in and repeatedly picked out the known brands while the other brands collected dust. In an ideal world all the candy brands would be placed equally for the consumers to decide. But it is a business world and businesses know the importance of being able to manipulate tendencies and chance. So by placing the known brands in favourable positions they received wider recognition, more sales, thus manipulating a degree of luck. So just for giggles I imagined myself as an owner of great tasting candy brand and considered my chances of competing with the other well-established candy brands. Just for the sake of argument I imagined myself being incredibly hard working, having excellent taste in candies and having all the textbook knowledge on achieving brand success. I could have, in theory, pursued a life in marketing my candy and never realistically reach the success level of Starbursts, Skittles and MnM´s. Now honest self-reflection humbled me into knowing I did not have the will power, knowledge nor skills to even attempt such a frivolous task. But even if I did! My chances were extremely slim. My timing and placement would’ve had to be perfect along with my efforts. In other words, while I may have been able to manipulate my level of luck through adopting some of the behaviour patterns discussed earlier, I still would have needed an incredible amount of prominent luck.

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What I am mostly trying to convey in this post is that we should be cautious of the advice we leave ourselves so open to receiving, especially the dangerous bias kind. We justifiably give more credibility to people who appear to know their craft but advice from said people is often biased. I say this not to discredit or undermine certain accomplishments. To reiterate, advice from people in favorable positions is often incomplete. There is a significant amount to learn from people´s mistakes and even more so from personal mistakes. While it is completely acceptable to glorify and admire successful people I also think we need to consider a slightly different way of looking at success in general. I am not merely speaking of celebrities or star athletes but also people in successful marriages as an example. Our grandparents stereotypically tell us about how relationships were more successful during their times but fail to mention the technicalities of why. In the same context, someone with little experience that gets hired for a top management position may fail to acknowledge that their qualifications were not entirely the basis that rendered their candidacy attractive. Now of course I may be cherry picking my examples in accordance with my point but I still maintain the notion that we need to be weary of survivorship bias due to the risk of receiving incomplete and subjective information.

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We do not pursue success but rather we pursue the chance to become successful. Which is why success can never be guaranteed. We can only increase the likelihood through our attitudes.  All this is not to say that we should not take chances or pursue dreams due to unfavorable odds but instead be weary of how we pursue dreams and how we perceive the concept of success. Because success stories are incomplete without the inclusion of fear, conflict, self-doubt, multiple failures and sometimes even malpractice. As the saying goes, if something appears too good to be true then it most often is. So next time you see a model with a six-pack on the front of a magazine with a header stating “5 exercises that will give you a six-pack like mine,” be sure to take the advice with a grain of salt.

 

Thank you for reading 😊

A Humble Awakening (part 2)

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“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” – Anais Nins

 

In high school we had a class called TOK (theory of knowledge) where we were challenged to question our understanding of the world. I remember when I first read the quote above I immediately felt an unequivocal shift in my understanding and perception of things. The feeling was quite similar to what you experience when you finally see a camouflaged object in a picture, or look at it from a different perspective and find a completely new dimension. In this class we were taught to sort of distrust many of the structured beliefs that we had, or at the very least be wary of the foundations. To me this class led to a spark of ideas that I always struggled to explain to others. Some of the other students approached TOK like any other class, read the information and reiterate it during exams, simple as that. But for me, the more I went to these classes the more my values and identifications felt threatened. I found myself asking upsetting existential questions such as “what is my purpose? What do I actually know? Who am I as a person?” This was the first time I consciously experienced the resistance of my ego, my resistance to accept the possibility that I´m actually not that important, the possibility that MY beliefs and MY sentiments are merely manifestations of a false sense of being highly dependent on my immediate surroundings. After becoming aware of this realization I decided to suppress it. After all, you don’t exactly becoming the life of a party when you abruptly start discussing existentialism and spiritual emergence.

Now, I find myself being pushed to reconsider my views on the mechanisms of life. I am not exactly changing my views but rather becoming more aware of them. I find myself asking, is there a different way to live a more prosperous and fulfilling life outside of the already defined pragmatic dynamics? If so, what would this life look like?

 

Unconscious living

Descartes once said, “I think, therefor I am.” It was through reading some of the works of Rupert Spira (spiritual teacher), that I was first introduced to the idea that most of us are actually living unconsciously and that Descartes´s statement is misleading. Spira teaches about our tendency to be consumed by a thought-possessed awareness, which disguises itself as true awareness. The teachings of Buddha also support this idea that a believed self is not necessarily ones true self. Other spiritual teachers also claim that the majority of our actions come from a source of ignorance. They explain that evil stems from an unobserved mind. Feelings of greed, hate and jealousy are all rooted from an egoistic mind, which we are so reluctant to break free from because we identify with it so intensely for various reasons. Spiritual teachings encourage transcendence from this thought and form based consciousness to deeper and more profound levels of consciousness. This is often referred to as achieving higher consciousness. It is commonly described to be a dimension free from the incessant commotion produced by the mind. This is said to be a peaceful state in which we are better positioned to notice a lot of vital details that we formerly overlook with the futile use of our senses. It is a position where we experience divine relief from all the constraints that the mind has bestowed upon us. The mind is tirelessly talking and predominantly telling us that we need to solve and understand things in order to further fill an insatiable need for satisfaction. Yet the path to said satisfaction is inaccessible through the dimension of the mind. For as much as we may force ourselves to think happy and positive thoughts the mind is not equipped to be that medium. In fact, the mind is a hindrance in this stage as it attempts to take on a role that it can never understand due to its limited structure.

 

Sheepish Consumerism

If we are truly unaware what are the implications? It implies we are impulsive. It implies that we make decisions out of self-interest and rarely consider the repercussions. It is a mind pattern that has always been observed in humans but until recently the consequences of this egoistic propensity to consume has become increasingly ominous. Marketers aim to keep us in this state of unawareness because it is rather easy to manipulate an egoistic mind. It is even easier to manipulate a group of egoistic minds. It all comes down to pushing the right buttons of the ego as it seeks a particular set of emotions. The ego seeks to be admired, loved, epitomized and stroked. This is why the most successful companies boldly promote the idea that all the needs of the ego can be fulfilled. Of course, they do not do this explicitly. Instead, it is hidden in disingenuous communication. So we´re told certain brands will make us stand out and the things we invest in will ultimately bring us everlasting joy. This has never been the case because we all know as soon as there is a newer model of something, the older model automatically depreciates in sentimental value and the chase never ends. We know this so well! In fact most people I speak with will agree that possessions are not vital to happiness and fulfillment. People readily claim that money does not buy happiness. Yet, nobody truly believes that because we allow our unmonitored egos to diverge us to relentlessly want something better and money often provides the means. Marketers are very well aware of the susceptibilities the ego and they target this with relentless efficiency. The examples are apparent in all advertising. Drug advertising unambiguously articulates, “give us money and we´ll make you feel better.” Yet, we continue to invest from a source of unawareness. We invest without asking questions because, to some extent, we believe our needs are being genuinely met. Marketers would rather keep us oblivious to the fact that wanting is very different than needing and as we remain in the egoistic false sense of self, sellers are empowered to proceed with the perfect scheme, in which they promise something they can never truly deliver. Happiness.

 

The Pursuit of Happiness

I remember Will Smith´s character wittingly dazzling the recruiters in the movie “Pursuit of Happiness.” It was a good movie and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. But years after watching it I find myself strongly disagreeing with the notion that happiness is something we need to pursue. For happiness is already within us but we lack the strength and commitment to see it. The mind has constructed a world of duality wherein we see light as the opposite of darkness. In this context pain must exist in order for joy to prosper. In economics someone has to lose money for someone else to make money. It is a system that we built in order to restore balance but instead the opposite is being enforced. I was always told to work now and play later. In my head this implied suffer now and have fun later. I never understood why I couldn’t have fun while working. Shouldn’t that be the ultimate framework?

In a dualistic approach how can love be genuine? My father always told me that we lived in a cruel world where if I do not have anything attractive to offer I would not have any friends. We like to think of ourselves as a considerate species when really we are unconsciously and greedily biased in selecting those we call friends. We all have good or bad feelings about people that we decide to act upon. Someone once asked me how I could control my feelings, how I generally remain calm in the midst of chaotic situations. I don´t necessarily control my feelings but its very important that we remain aware of them and recognize where these feelings stem from. Most of the time we will notice that feelings, especially negative ones, stem from misguided thought processes. Feelings mostly come from a conditioned and biased mind and we if we can recognize that we will also realize its vanity, thus rendering it powerless.

Unconditional love is this wonderful thing we talk about that most of us are unable to provide. It is impossible for unconditional love to be present in the unconscious mind, in a dualistic mind. Unconditional love, what many call true love, is very rare as love can easily transform to hate in most cases when a specific set of needs or expectations are not met, rendering it conditional. And so we constantly pursue love and happiness with the idea that we are approaching a purpose, a purpose that a previous job or lover could not fulfill. We march on convinced that the next one will be better because we know ourselves better and we know what we seek to become happy, oblivious to the fact that it is an endless cycle of deceptive thought patterns. We may for a moment be happy and think we merit the spoils but it wouldn’t be long until we are emotionally lurking again. In an unconscious state we can never feel fulfilled and we will maintain a victim mentality, because a mind influenced world of duality is an unstable world, a world doomed of an endless quest to quench an unquenchable thirst.

 

So what if there is a different way of living, a way that takes into account a larger embodiment of consciousness. Could this be the next step in human evolution? It is obvious that we are reaching a peak era in our existence and something needs to change. I admire all the environmental efforts done to ameliorate our destructive tendencies but will it be enough to put tape on a wound that will always reemerge? Or do we have to look at more lasting solutions through realizing and defeating the groundless inclinations that we all have within us? We need to spiritually awaken and let go of the emotional burden that a false sense of self has bestowed upon us.

 

I know a lot of people will wonder, the same way I did, what will be left at the point of spiritually awakening? Will we then just sit around like monks not worrying about anything? What’s the point of leading such a nonchalant lifestyle? How can we progress without defining things? What about goals, achievements, loving someone special? How can someone be both content and ambitious? In an awakened state all these questions carry very little weight for these are questions of the ego and you can witness its resistance. Actually, many will claim that accomplishing goals and becoming successful are things that inadvertently get fulfilled once the inner spiritual energy is realized. This inner realization is sometimes described to be God. Many devout believers who surrender themselves to a higher power, a higher consciousness, will corroborate that they have accessed limitless potential from within. Tupac said that when he wrote he used to “close his eyes and let God do his thing.” Many artists will confirm to having experienced similar influences.

I don’t want to pretentiously sit here and claim that I am familiar with the spiritual path that will fix all world problems. I can merely attest to having experienced instances where I can shut my mind and see the world as it is and it is a beautiful place that we routinely neglect. We are raised to be ignorant of a world beyond our limited senses and we erroneously ask ourselves what the world can give us instead of what we can give it. Labels such as culture, religion and traditions separate us and maintains groups of egoistic minds. I think we should let go of these labels and focus on allowing our true selves, our souls to emanate. For it is through this source we can learn to genuinely love one another. It is from this source that we will learn to do amazing things that we thought were impossible. It is from this source we will recognize that things like terrorist attacks, corruption and exploitation are not mainly African and Middle Eastern problems but actually world problems. Our economic and political systems are broken, and I am not saying that from a professional perspective but from a human one.

As a people we are afraid of change. We are afraid of letting go of the confined but familiar walls we spent years building. For the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t. Now I am not saying we should tear down everything and live as we did during the Stone Age. Life is not a Disney movie and we often have to deal with pragmatic aspects. But if you have a modest roof over your head, food consistently on the table and the ones you love are in good health then you have everything you need to be reasonably happy. Nothing else really matters that much. I predict that one day when I will lie on my death bed the only questions I will ask myself are was I able to spend as much time as possible with the people I love and was I able to show them?

I am not a very religious person in a traditional sense but allow me to conclude with a quote from Jesus.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

 

Thank you for reading

The other side of Love

I just realized that I am Tom. Tom, from “500 days of Summer.” For those of you who have not seen this movie I´ll provide a brief summary because I will be referring to parts of it in this post. Tom is an aspiring architect who somewhere along the way lost a sense of who he is. He struggles to find purpose in the mundane life he accidently finds himself living. This directly intensifies his need to love and to cherish someone who he unconsciously believes will enchantingly give meaning to his existence. He meets a girl, Summer, who is described as an ordinary girl at first. But this girl sparks Tom´s interest and he slowly begins to fall in love with her even though she gives him obvious signs that she will break his heart. In the midst of all the metaphoric butterflies and chemistry Tom is completely ignorant to the reality of things, which is that Summer may not quite feel the same. Even as viewers we believe Summer will join Tom in his fantasy. However, there is an eventual deception that leaves Tom completely broken and feeling blind-sided. In re-watching this movie I find myself completely relating to Tom. Tom was in love with a concept. He saw things completely from his perspective and ignored the difference between his physiology and that of Summers. He failed to see that and obsessed over trying to understand Summer, but there was nothing to understand, they were just simply incompatible. All this to say, if you are person who believes in miracles you will have a hard time relating to someone who doesn’t.

 

Breaking up causes a strange kind of pain that you can´t quite isolate. You feel it in your head, in your heart, your arms and legs. You feel heavier than you´ve ever felt despite your weight loss caused by your lack of appetite. You can’t eat, sleep or even function normally. Everything you do reminds you of that one person. You become a master at relating whatever you look at to that person. It is as if your brain is constantly working against your psychological wellbeing. The worst part is there´s no escaping it. You just have to sit there and take it hoping it will soon subside. Days go by and your brain begins to wander again. You start talking to people and learn to listen to them again without your troubles clouding your interactions. Food begins to have a taste again and you notice the sun for the first time in a long time. The moment you begin to get comfortable with the idea of moving on is the moment your heart collapses again and drags you back with sad memories. You replay every single vivid memory in your head as you sadistically inflict emotional pain on to yourself. You incessantly go through facebook and instagram hoping to see that person but at the same time hoping you don’t, because if its not a picture of her holding a sign that says “I miss you” it wouldn’t be appropriate enough. There are really no words to describe how disheartening this stage is.

 

At some point you gain the strength to move around again and you trick yourself into suppressing your true feelings. The only thing you really should be suppressing is the egoistic urge to explode jersey shore style with thoughts of “how can his happen to me.” You go out with your friends and have a few drinks and brag about how free and relieved you feel. You lie and lie and lie some more about how well you´re doing because lying to yourself provides a temporary sense of distraction. You wear a smiling mask everyday and people admire how strong you are. Because as a real man you’re supposed to be strong right? False.Very few people will see the deception in your eyes and will insist that you tell them what’s wrong. These are the ones that truly care and will try to help you. They will tell you “life goes on and there is plenty fish in the sea.” You will respond by saying “I don’t care about the other fish, I want this fish.” Your pinions and convictions will all be severely tested as you struggle to understand why things do not work out the way you envision them to. Amongst feelings of despair, hate, depression and loneliness you will feel as though everything you once believed in has forsaken you. You become melodramatic, pessimistic and judgmental. You once believed your love was more special than any one else’s and now you feel your break up is also exceptional. So you lay in bed and you cry yourself to sleep.

 

“I love how she makes me feel…like anything is possible, like life is worth it.” This is what Tom said about Summer. The danger about feeling this way about a person is that the day they leave, you´re left feeling as if nothing is possible and life, on the contrary, is not worth it. Tom spent all this time identifying and assessing himself with regards to Summer. If she was happy he was happy and if she wasn’t then so was he. Almost like a lost puppy he was emotionally dependent on her to feel a sense of worthiness.

At some point in the movie Tom says to Summer “ I need to know that you´re not going to wake up in the morning and feel differently.”

She responds “And I can’t give you that, nobody can.”

Her answer, although cold and calculated, is very accurate. Summer gives you the impression that she is unbothered with the idea of love. In fact she blatantly says, “Love is just a fantasy.” But there are discrepancies between what she says and does throughout the movie. She tells Tom from the beginning that she wouldn’t be able to give him what she wants yet she encourages him to continue nurturing this illusion he has of her. I think its important to notice the insincerity in her actions because it reveals how imperfect we are as humans. We may think and believe certain things and then easily act in contradiction of those things. She further shows her insecurities by marrying someone shortly after leaving Tom.

 

So what´s the point of love and what’s point of saying things knowing full well you may not be able to live up to those words? How do you know if what you have with somebody is genuine and will remain consistent? How do you maintain love after the butterflies dissipate? How can you read the signs so as not to over invest and put yourself in a vulnerable situation? I don´t know the answers. I can sit here and contrive a theory about physiological factors and the importance of things like honesty, trust and passion. But I´m starting to believe it all boils down to being lucky. Tom is said to have understood that “ you can´t ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence, that´s all anything ever is, nothing more than coincidence.” It eventually doesn´t seem to matter so much all these opinions and rules we have on what makes a relationship work. You just sort of bump into someone that immediately meets a basic criteria, take leap of faith with them and hope for the best. People all have different feelings and outlooks towards love and on top of that people change depending on their suitability. In other words, it’s easy to fall in love with someone when the circumstances are favorable. But the moment circumstances change people find that their feelings begin to change as a result and it’s a sad truth to comprehend. My generation has been raised to believe that we are all special and that we deserve more without warrant. We go to work like zombies, punch in, nag that we should get paid more, punch out, and then maintain this sense of entitlement that was unrightfully bestowed upon us. We maintain the same attitude towards relationships in which we have unrealistic expectations we feel should be fulfilled, as we tend to undermine or over enhance the reality of the relationship. I think both Tom and Summer failed to grasp the reality of their relationship as their feelings were conflicted. When I first watched this movie I hated Summer. When I watched it again I realized none of them were particularly in the wrong. They were just simply unlucky and incompatible.

 

If it is not obvious yet, yes I recently went through a break up, in fact I´m still going through it. It was always my intention to write a comedic post on “the 8 stages of breaking up” or something lighthearted like that. But then I remembered why I picked up writing in this blog to begin with. It was to connect with my readers on a profound level. I remembered that I wanted people to resonate with my writing and what better way to do this than by being completely human. It would be dishonest for me to only post about how I have supposedly figured everything out, because the truth is I haven’t at all. I can´t really go into detail into what was finally the breaking point between her and myself but it was something similar to the theme of “500 Days of Summer”, which ironically is a movie we first watched together. Frankly, had someone told me a few months ago I would be visiting the topic of heartbreak, I would’ve laughed. I would have naively said our relationship is unbreakable. Having said that, I look forward to being able to say I´m truly okay and that I´ve accepted a devastating loss. I look forward to having emotions of bitterness and sadness fade away. Most of all, I look forward to revisiting the topic of love in my blog, with hopefully a new sense of understanding and positivity.

I don’t want you to read this and feel sorry for me but rather smile and relate to me. We all know the risks of putting our hearts on the line. In this life we live and learn things we sometimes would rather not. Life has a sick way of humbling us in moments when we think we have it all figured out and we reluctantly have to let go and  trust that we´ll be fine, eventually. Even in the deepest levels of desolation we can find beauty if we´re willing to see it.

We had our moment under the sun and it was magical. I am nothing but grateful for the times I had with Mari, even though it only lasted for a moment.

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Thank you for reading

 

 

 

A letter to my future daughter

 

I don´t know why but I have a feeling that you will be the first of my anticipated children. I hope you have your mother’s eyes because mine look pretty ordinary and boring. I hope you have my sense of humor though so we can laugh at cheesy things that others will find childish. I hope that you will love life the way I do and accept not only the joy that comes along but also the pain and hurt that will push you to grow. I hope you will be optimistic and see the good that exists in everyone without judgment. I hope that you will be generous and see the value in helping others in need. Most of all I hope that you will learn to be happy because the world can be a menacing and discouraging place if you rely on external dynamics to nourish your inner harmony. I always wished I could talk to myself in the past and give myself hints on how to lead my life. But if there’s one thing we learn from all those time traveling movies is that fate can hardly be changed for the better. I can´t change the actions of my older self and I wont look to change yours just so I can feel some sort of justification. This letter is the first thing I offer you as a testament of the things I have learned and continue to learn. One day you will read this, and I hope it will make you smile.

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You´re going to have times in your life where you have to make imperative decisions. You will probably not like the fact that you have to give up things. Sometimes you have to give up money, sometimes you will give up fun, but worst of all you will give up relationships. Friends will disappoint you and so will family. But you have to be strong enough to understand why it is the way it is and you have to be strong enough to either deal with it or move along from it. If you end up being optimist and generous people will abuse your kindness. I hope you realize early on though that the problem will not be the fact that you´re too kind, but rather you´re too kind to the wrong people. Some people will earn you generosity and trust. Some people will be just as understanding and kind to you. I hope you become good at identifying such people and make it an objective to surround yourself with them.

I hope that you will be strong and independent. However, I hope that you will pretend to need me from time to time. Because it will give me such great pleasure in knowing that you will always need me to do fatherly things such as hug you when you cry or shake your boyfriends hand a little too firmly. Otherwise I want you to be fearless and knowledgeable.

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People will make you believe that your happiness will rely on the image you are able to portray for yourself. They will make you believe that this image is dependant on your economic status, your accomplishments and quality of the pictures you post on facebook and instagram. I hope you realize from an early age how little significance that all carries. Of course, you need money and you need some sort of career. But I want you to master the notion of being content with what you have. So far the happiest people I have come across in this world are people that have very little material worth and yet are very rich in life. I definitely do not want you to starve or to experience hardship in order to learn these lessons but I hope you will be awakened enough to understand it that way I do. I want you to see that the key to happiness will be in your hand and no one else’s.

 

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High school will be a treacherous environment for you if you allow the opinions of others to influence you. I hope you realize early on that being kind and understanding is much more important than being cool. Kids have a way of being nasty and they will make you very uncomfortable in your own skin. But you have to stand up to them and find your genuine self so as not to be a predisposed product of your generation’s standards. I hope you will be strong enough to withstand the social pressures that come along.

 

It’s a little hard for me to say this but I hope you get your heart broken, because it happens to all of us and we become stronger from it. I remember the first time I fell in love. I felt invincible. I thought I had everything figured out and life was beautiful, little did I know that it was all a figment of my imagination. When it ended it felt like my life had ended along with it. It will hurt…a lot! and I will be there to feel the pain with you. Some people will act as though its no big deal when your heart breaks. They will tell you “time heals everything” and move along with their day. You will sit there and replay every scenario in your head wondering how you could’ve been wrong. The one person you vow to love and cherish for the rest of your life just up and figuratively vanishes. I hope you will be strong enough to not allow it to consume you. I hope you will let it fuel your motivation to continue being relentless and not bitter. You will see all kinds of relationships failing or flourishing around you and it will confuse you greatly trying to figure out how the mechanics of the heart function. People will love providing you with theories about how love works and how it should work. If you are like me you will politely listen but you will not agree. Because as much as people will try to tell you that they have figured it out, they know nothing about love. Tell them my daddy says you’re wrong!

 

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I want you to love unconditionally and to never question or try to rationalize why you care about someone. If you love, love wholeheartedly and honestly. Give your time and energy to a person you believe will provide you with the same. Look profoundly into their eyes and experience the beauty of being securely embraced by another person. You will find that there is no such thing as Mr. Right. You will probably meet a couple of Mr. Maybes. But I hope you come to find that love is created, not found. My generation is the “maybe” generation. It is the generation that is scared to commit not just in relationships but also in everything else. We have an inclination to believe that settling is a bad thing because there maybe something better out there. While I hope you always strive for better be wary of the people in your life that love and care about you. While some may not know how to express their emotions it may be up to you to teach them how to love without reservations. Even if it means getting your heart broken. Trust me.

 

So its been decided that you will have your mothers eyes and my smile. You don’t have much of a say in the matter! I look forward to knowing you and learning from you. I hope that we will have an honest relationship in which you will never be scared to talk to me as a friend. Maybe you will find me dorky and wouldn’t want to tell me things. Maybe you will laugh at how high I wear my pants the way I laugh at my dad. I cant promise that I wont embarrass you in front of you friends when I drop you off at school and try to kiss you on forehead. I also cant promise not to get angry if a boy breaks your heart and tries to take advantage of you. But I can promise to be your companion through all your good and bad times. I promise to call you beautiful even if you have that green thing all over your face with cucumbers on your eyes (I never understood what that was for). I don’t want to show you how to live your life, for it is yours to be lived. However, I will be here to guide and support you every step of the way. I don’t know when you will be here. I don’t even know who will deliver you. I don’t know if you will be right or left handed and I don’t know if you will like football the way I do. But I know you will be beautiful, strong, intelligent and kind.

And I love you, even before you exist.

 

Thank you for reading 😊

A Humble Awakening

Boureh Kargbo was a tall Sierra Leonean fellow with a particularly obtrusive stomach. My father and I always picked him up as we made our way to the golf course on the weekends. We would park outside his house and watch him comically scamper towards the car and he would always finish getting ready in the car. Boureh was an average Sierra Leonean who spent most of his time working in order to barely maintain a roof over his family. Just like most Sierra Leoneans, Boureh received an underwhelming salary and was forced to work extra hard in order to lead a tolerable life. Strangely enough, Boureh was perhaps one of the happiest people I´ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. In today’s standards, he would understandably have all the reasons to be bitter, depressed and blameful. Instead, he was fun, loving and often exploded in big boisterous laughs that always reminded me of Darunia from the legend of Zelda (for all you Zelda fans out there). Saying Boureh was a happy person is a stark understatement. He radiated positive energy, to the point where he would walk into any room and people would automatically cheer up and acknowledge his formidable presence. I truly looked up to his character without really understanding how or why he exuberated such charismatic energy. In the summer of 2004 Boureh passed away prematurely after having been diagnosed with aids. I never had the chance to see him in the final stages of his life but I know left us peacefully. This post is not about Boureh directly. It is about what he represented. 11 years after his passing I think I finally understand why he was the way he was.

Acceptance

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I think one of the biggest misconceptions we have as humans is believing that we can possess or control everything. While I do believe a lot of things should be influenced, some things are much simpler to accept as is. There is a special sense of relief in allowing certain things to fall into place on their own. That is not to say we should not work hard to achieve things but rather to recognize the distinct difference in the things we can directly manipulate over the things we cannot. If we take the time to observe people who enforce feelings of gratitude or trust in a higher power we can identify a sense of calmness. Some people seem to naturally radiate a sense of ease even in the center of a feverish environment. They remain composed while the rest of us go through anxiety. They seem to trust that the universe will unapologetically unfold as it should and it tends to be in their favor. I find it hard to trust unempirical processes but I know for a fact there are physiological benefits in being harmonious to the clandestine flow of the universe. We observe this in animals as they trust and rely on their senses to dictate their movements. We, on the other hand try to manipulate everything with our subjective brains. Over time we have evolved to be exceedingly dependent on observations and thought processes that disconnect us from the harmonious flow of the earth. I receive glimpses of this pleasant sensation in the mornings, where I wake up reminding myself to be grateful for having been granted another day that was never particularly promised to me. In reading about spiritual teachings I came across certain words consistently. The words persistently communicated are gratitude, trust and acceptance. There is a certain reconciliation in accepting that life will give us exactly what we need when we need it in order for us to evolve.

The Ego

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We all have a part of our consciousness that is occupied by our egos. We often mistake our beliefs and thoughts to be genuine when in fact it is that of the ego´s. It is vital to comprehend that the ego is a false sense of self that aims only to justify and satisfy itself through deceptive means. Whenever we experience feelings of unmerited pride or seek to defend ourselves unreasonably we can experience the ego trying to establish itself. Whenever we feel the need to be absolutely right or make excuses about our predicament, it is the ego further imposing itself. Self-pity, self-justification, self-fulfillment are classic goals and characteristics of the ego. If we delve further into egoistic behavior we notice that people consumed by their ego will always relentlessly seek to enhance themselves in the eyes of others. They tend to especially start their sentences with the words I or myself.

Frankly, I am not sure if it is possible to be fully altruistic. But I do know that it is possible to put ones needs secondary. But for that to happen the ego has to be obliterated.

There is great deception in attempting to satisfy the ego for the ego can never be satisfied. In pursuing ego satisfaction, one will always feel unfulfilled and cause the same for others. It is common that we feel a certain sense of relief when someone commits a crime or has an accident, for it gives us the facility to separate ourselves from the negativity. It is vital to notice the many shades of the ego in order to overcome its exorbitant presence. We must remain aware of the ego in order for it to dissolve. We cannot try to defeat the ego forcefully as it may serve only to enhance it. Be the awareness behind the ego´s manifestation and we find that as it lessens we will be more at peace with our perpetual insecurities and false sense of self.

Identification

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I find that generally there are two kinds of older people. You have the ones who appear blissful and maintain child-like personalities. Then you have the bitter ones desperately clinging on to older and “better” times. I find the main reason for this is because most of us anxiously identify ourselves with structure. When someone asks the question “who are you” we quickly resort to things that define us. It could be nice house, a nice watch, a nice shirt,a good job, a good sports team, an attractive instagram profile or even a pretty partner. We all attempt to surround ourselves with positive things in order to appear appealing or to compensate for hidden insecurities. By trying to let positive outlooks define us we fail to define ourselves from within. We rely on these exterior elements so heavily that we ignore the potential consequences of losing them. And believe it, everything we think we own we will one day lose. Some people are identified with their nice body or good facial structure. But even that is deceiving, because one day it will fade.

Successful marketers have understood people´s unchecked need to appear appealing, which is why they persistently promise that products will enhance our self worth. With time, we let go of older things and replace them with newer things that continue to enchant us, all the while failing to realize that there is no ultimate fulfillment in allowing your happiness to be determined by things that are constantly changing form. Money comes and goes. Success comes and goes. People who are identified with form come and go. But inner peace and unbound happiness is eternal. We have enough only when we become enough.

Awakening

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I think the next step in human evolution requires us to transcend beyond a profoundly conceptualized world. If you think about it carefully, most of the ideas and values we pride ourselves on having are actually thorough forms of conditioning. With time and effort potentially anybody can be convinced that the world is flat and not round, regardless of what the truth is. Its time we start letting go of this preconceived notion that we can merely reason our way through life. We can´t live life only through calculation and logic. Do not get me wrong the world has made incredible strides in meticulous areas. I, by no means, want to disrepute the incredible scientists, doctors and engineers of our world. I don’t even study this stuff so in sense this is all theorized in itself. Hopefully it doesn’t sound pretentious either. We sometimes do have to determine risk over reward and we sometimes have to adapt to the mechanized living standards of society. But not to extent in which we forget the meaning of being alive. In the movie “Dead Poets Society,” Robin Williams phrased it perfectly when he said “Medecine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

I guess I´m trying to say that there is another side to existence. A side that is profound, peaceful and heavenly. Some people will mock this claim and say it is the invention of idle minds. Some people who have experienced finding God or achieving enlightenment will accept the criticism because argument in a spiritual context is futile. I myself experience this awakening transitorily. When we find this inner peace and remove the excess weight that the subjective world has placed upon us, we realize that a lot of things gradually stop mattering. We stop letting situations define us and instead try to define it. We stop trying to making the right decisions and instead make our decisions right. We stop trying to look for meaning and start creating it. We start behaving more genuinely. We start to see the oneness of everything and how we are all interconnected. We are able to sense different energies the same way animals can. We become free from possessive thoughts that have manifested in our brains for years. In other words, we awaken from a conditioned, egoistic and calculated mind that had us convinced that we were in control. We are truly in control when we consciously breathe and become aware of the infinite blessings and privileges life grants us. Heaven is where the mind and body align. This can only happen from within, and from within this capacity, arises unbound beauty, genuineness, creativity, objective happiness etc. I think this is something Boureh had understood.

Thank you for reading 😊

The Art of Argument

So it´s 2015 and we all have smartphones. We all have Google and know how to research basic information. Having said that, you would think there would no longer be any arguments or at least the quality of arguments would improve. But no. Arguing is part of human nature and more of often that not arguments are character related as opposed to the subject at hand. An argument is defined to be a series of statements typically used to persuade. Arguments can sometimes be necessary in order to achieve a common objective. But a lot of times we go about arguments the wrong way as the point usually gets lost in translation. Arguing is an art and just like every art form there are specific rules and guidelines that must be followed. Here are my top 5 rules that I believe should be followed.

Learn to listen

The human brains is naturally stubborn. Since childhood we have a hard time listening or focusing on what people say to us. We have a harder time listening if what the other person is saying does not pair with our structure of thought. The older we get the more we think we know and thus our stubbornness surges. We judge people based on age or appearance and automatically think, “There is no way this person has a valid point to make.” Where I come from this has always been a common behavior flaw. I would go as far as to say in most third world countries, in my experience, older people struggle to give younger ones a chance to make their points. It is a cultural thing, as younger minds are deemed unfit or unqualified by default. There is also a matter of respect. It is regarded highly disrespectful for an older gentleman to be proved wrong by a younger and supposedly immature adversary.

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Regardless of race, age, role or any other superficial form, in any given argument both parties need to hear out one another. Sometime people are so focused on thinking of their own response instead of listening to the opposing view. Some people enjoy the sound of their own voice and would rather hear their own opinion as oppose to yours which may be very valid. As silly or as uninformed opinions may sound there is a gentleman´s conduct that must be held up in any meaningful argument and this conduct begins by showing respect through listening and processing.

Stick to the issue

Have you ever had an argument with someone and you start thinking to yourself “what does this statement have to do with anything?” Often times people lose focus on the argument at hand and start wheeling in other irrelevant factors. I find this usually happens when an opposition is more focused on winning the argument more than anything else. While it should be a goal to mostly learn something new from any given argument, people sometimes feel challenged or attacked. They will usually respond harshly by throwing a metaphoric “low blow” in which they will either insult you or sometimes physically attack you. You have probably heard the expression “that escalated quickly,” which refers to a situation unexpectedly getting out of hand. When arguing about a particular subject both parties need to first agree to stay within the confines of this matter, otherwise it just becomes a duel where argument becomes completely futile and insecurities arise. It becomes personal.

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Don’t be overconfident

Be humble. Even if you are 110% sure that you are right stay calm and realize its not the end of the world if you don’t convince your adversary. There are two reasons I think people shouldn’t gloat when they believe they are right. First, it’s not a nice thing to do. Humiliation or worthlessness should never be felt at the conclusion of an argument. Second, there is always a chance, no matter how right you may think you are, you may actually be wrong. It ends up looking really bad when you are overconfident and resort to laughing at the opposing view, only to later find out that you were wrong all along.

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Admit defeat

This is probably the hardest thing to do at the end of an argument. There are only three ways arguments should potentially end. You can agree to disagree, you can disagree or you can both agree. Although these three scenarios appear graceful in theory, it is not usually the case. People generally don’t like negative associations. Losing an argument over the use of incorrect or irrelevant information can be unfavorable. In fact, the term losing by itself possesses negative overtones. At the realization of defeat people rarely accept it tastefully and shake hands like you would see chess players do. Instead, people tend to either lash out or blame their predicament on superficial circumstances. If you come to the realization that you have been proven wrong in an argument, accept the defeat like a gentleman and move on. Also, be noble understand when an apology may be necessary.

Wrong

Stay in control

There is a particular moment in every general disagreement that does not bode well with your sense of calmness. If you pay close attention you can sense a change in your body. Your heartbeat speeds up, your body temperature rises and you have a heightened sense of your environment. This typically happens when your body is in distress as you sense an immediate danger. This can sometimes be felt when there is a change of tone when talking with another person. Sometimes you can feel it when they insult you or say something you wouldn’t expect them to say. Sometimes you feel it when they simply and politely disagree with you. At a heightened sense of emotions thinking becomes obscure and reactions even more so. Most people don’t act rationally when they feel attacked. It is therefor important to identify this switch in sensation in order to remain calm and composed. The minute you give in to the distressful rush you start to react unwillingly and you find yourself speaking without thinking. It’s nothing but downhill from there.

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It takes a particular mindset to argue effectively. In this post I only explore general habits of arguing that people find themselves falling victim to on a daily basis. Truth is there are many other sorts of arguments that touch on different areas   For example arguing with your spouse over marital affairs will be completely different to arguing with your friend on whether or not a tomato is a fruit. I myself rarely see the point of arguing and would much rather have healthy discussions where I seek to gain insight. I don’t really feel the need to prove people wrong as it is inherently in my nature to relate to people. Its funny because where I come from arguing is a general pastime. It is not uncommon for politicians from my country to resort to physical violence in the middle of congressional debates. While the videos of such passionate aggression make me laugh it is also inversely sad to see how far some people will go to get their points across. This need is part of a deep malfunction in the human mind that potentially gives awakening to incessant wars. Being right is ultimately not that important. In the larger scale of things, being understanding or accepting is far more honorable.

Thanks for reading 😊

L-O-V-E

I remember walking into a crowded classroom and sat on the first empty chair I could find. She walked in right after me and sat right across on the other side of the classroom. I remember her grey coat, one she still wears occasionally, muffled up around her neck complementing her beautifully tamed hair. She looked at me with her vast eyes almost as if to say “who are you and what are you doing here?” Soon after all the other students had settled in the professor singled me out and asked me for my name while holding up a list. “Elie Andari” I said to him nervously. I thought he was taking attendance but he just sat there precariously staring at his list of names. I made my way over to help him spot my name. As it turned out I was in the wrong classroom or at least the wrong group. My group´s lecture was taking place in another room across the hall. Had I made class the week before, I would’ve known this. I timidly made my way back to my seat, picked up my backpack and regretfully walked to the door as I stole a last glance at the girl that had sparked my interest.

Love-At-First-Sight

A few days later, when I eventually made it to accounting class, I noticed her sitting in the middle of the auditorium surrounded by intimidating posh girls. I remember her laughing enthusiastically at one of the jokes our unwitty professor made. I remember thinking “that’s a girl that laughs with all her heart.” It was goofy and I liked it. I shook my head and convinced myself that there was no way I was going to let myself fall for a girl in my first year of college, the infamous age that all adults reminisce about being their glory days, the days that were supposedly reserved for finding yourself in a bewildering pool of women, drugs and alcohol. I tried. I tried to be unapologetically wild. I tried to reenact the scenes instilled in my brain after having watched American Pie years ago. My friend Johnee and I went out religiously trying to capitalize on our youth. But I could not stop thinking about this girl and her grey coat, and her goofy laugh, and her big eyes.

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One day I sat up late in my bedroom and decided I was going to stalk her on facebook. I could only see her profile picture because of her privacy settings. I thought to myself why don’t I just add her, surely she would remember me from the few times I showed up to class. She surprisingly accepted, we got to talk, few weeks later we went on our first date. Turned out we had a lot in common. She had lived for 3 years in South Africa and I was from Africa! I took her out for lunch on our first date. I´ll never forget how scared and confused she got when I ran out of the restaurant after eating and pretended I hadn’t paid. Funny enough we became friends before we became a couple. We spent countless hours on Skype and Facebook talking about nothing and everything. One day I walked her to the subway station. It had been a particularly silent walk because I was imagining how I was going to kiss her for the first time. I had planned it out a week in advance. It was going to be slow and romantic just like Jasmine and Aladdin. Few minutes later her subway was already there and she was leaning in for a hug. I panicked and went in for an awkward quick kiss/hug maneuver. It was definitely not the most conventional first kiss but it had to suffice. The message was transmitted and more importantly, it was acknowledged. Fast-forward 4 years later and my kissing her has improved considerably.

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I don’t know what the secret is to having a happy and fruitful relationship. Older people are quick to give advice on the matter but no one truly knows. They just speculate with circumstantial evidence. As humans we have developed in multiple areas but we remain oblivious about love. Some will say the most important factor is compatibility while others will argue the contrary. Some will even argue that we are not meant to be monogamous. I don’t know if we were meant to love in a particular way I think you kind of just have to do what feels right and hope for the best. I think it’s a shame that people are quick to give advice that isn’t always empathetic. Especially in the example of children we are so quick to deem it “puppy love” when such instances go on to profoundly shape the manner in which kids grow up to see the world. My point is, as much as we think we may know about love we actually know very little. You can never put yourself in someone else’s shoes and entirely feel what they feel.

One thing I have learned though is there is no “the one” and the reality is far from what we see in romantic comedies. I don’t think you find the perfect person but rather you make each other perfect with the time and effort you put in. Sometimes the bond is not right and the revelation can be disheartening. But I believe there is a somebody for everybody and as devastating a situation we may find ourselves in we cannot stop believing that. If I were to give advice I would say talk less and love more. If it fails, take the time to grieve and try again. Don´t think about labels or what may be in the future, if you love someone let them know how you feel and be present in that moment with them.

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Just like any relationship Mari and I have come across our fare share of challenges. I think our biggest test has been to maintain our relationship across the Atlantic Ocean. We have a routine where I would call her every morning and during my lunchtime. We would also text each other throughout the day. When I first left Norway and we had decided to prolong our relationship I remember everyone being skeptical. Opinions ranged from people who believed it was a matter of time and those that confirmed long distance relationships never work out. Generally, no one thought we would tough it out this long. It’s funny that the most pessimistic of people have now turned into our biggest supporters. I think my girlfriend and I are well underway into creating something special. I think our relationship transpires hope to those searching for love. My parents always raised me to be a rational thinker, to make commitments that abide well with societal norms. I seem to have done the exact opposite, as it appears I am the only one in a long-term commitment in my circle of friends. Does that scare me? Yes it does. But it’s not the kind of overwhelming scare that weakens your body. It’s the kind of scare you feel as kid when the prettiest girl in class talks to you. I don’t think there is a specific way to love someone. Love is not meant to be analyzed and quantified. It is meant to be felt and unquestioned. It is by far the most puzzling yet exhilarating feeling I have to come to fathom in my life. And I share it with this girl. It feels right. More right than any equation I have ever solved. More complete that any puzzle I have ever given up on. I can sit here and spend hours trying to come up with accurate analogies but the truth is no words could vindicate what it feels like to love someone and know that they reciprocate that love. I know we´re still somewhat young and that life may someday try to get in the way. However, I remain optimistic, as I am fully aware of what I have and even more aware of the life we can build together. When I look at her I still remember how she looked at me when I sat in the wrong classroom. When I kiss her I remember our first awkward kiss down by the subway station in Nydalen. When I am with her I feel whole and calm, at the same time less perturbed by existential questions and figuring out what I want from life. I want to laugh with her and love her wholeheartedly without pausing to think why. It is the only way I know how to live.

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Thank you for reading 😊

Lets be grateful together 😊

I was having a conversation with my girlfriend about a month ago where I revealed my dissatisfaction with the way the past year has unfolded. In our conversation I reluctantly admitted that my year felt unfulfilled and that in the future I would have a hard time remembering anything special about the year 2014. It was a strange year for me in a sense that I did not feel any significant progress, almost as though I spent it running on an imaginary treadmill when my 12 year old self had imagined myself flying by the age of 25, so to speak. I looked back at the goals I set out at the end of 2013 and realized I did not accomplish half the things on my list. As I opened up further about my fears and anxieties my girlfriend simply nodded as if to say she understood where I was coming from. Last year felt as though I lost touch with my feelings of contentment and was searching desperately for an anxious remedy. It got to the point where I contemplated getting a motorcycle and my girlfriend diagnosed me with a mild case of quarter life crisis. I still wan to get a motorcycle now… for other reasons… don’t tell my parents.

The truth is if I focused on the negative factors of last year I could count a lot of them. Or I could change my perspective and realize that my experiences in 2014 were a lot more meaningful and life altering than I initially presumed.

Here is another way I could look at 2014:

  • I traveled overseas twice
  • Went to Mexico with my girlfriend
  • Conquered another year of long distance
  • Started and quit another job 😛
  • Took on a new position at my job
  • Our new dog, Messi, was born
  • Made some new friends
  • Lost a ton of weight during summer
  • Gained a lot of muscle during winter
  • Saw my best friends that I hadn’t seen in a while
  • Went to Niagara falls with my family and girlfriend
  • Learned to influence my own happiness more profoundly

I was wrong to complain to my girlfriend. Not only because the act of complaining is detrimental but also because my reasons were misplaced. And while this post is starting to read like a sob story I want to quickly change the tone to a cheerier one. It took me some time to realize that there is one thing that outweighs everything else on my list above; the fact that all the people I love and care about are alive and well. This is one thing a lot of people take for granted in their incessant maze of self-preservation. I am extremely thankful for having the people I hold dearly to my heart alive and well. Some of these people live on separate floors and some live across the ocean. But at a moments notice I can see their vivacious faces on my phone. I am thankful for having grown a year older and hopefully a year wiser. I am thankful that there was finally a proper initiative taken against Ebola, which plagued my country for months. I am thankful to have endless opportunities to better myself both spiritually and physically. I am thankful that my girlfriend is still relentlessly in love with me and for that I love her back with the same intensity. Most of all, I am thankful that Barcelona made it to the semi final of the Champions league 😛

I always thought to myself that if heaven existed the set up would be as follows. There would be a very comfortable chair in front of a cinematic screen where we would have the option of viewing every second of our lives. The other day I was looking through old pictures and videos and realized that I took an ample lot the past year. So why not make my idea of heaven a reality?(Check out the video below) I learned for 2015 though to hold my phone horizontally when taking new photos. So don’t slander my camera skills!        Moral of this post, as cheesy and redundant as it sounds; the key to happiness is gratitude.

Thank you for reading, thank you for being you, and thank you for having a positive influence in my life and those around you 😊

Happy belated New Year

Hello friends and family. Hello fellow enthusiasts. Hello like-minded people brave enough to think they make a positive impact in our humble planet. This is my first blog post of 2015. I haven´t posted anything for a couple of months now reason being…. I got lazy. As duplicitous and demoralizing as it sounds, I quite frankly lost the energy and enthusiasm to blog. I cant exactly explain why but I just stopped enjoying it for a moment and if you all know me by now you know that when something stops being fun I tend to lose interest. But that is the past and this is now. I am in a good place both physically and emotionally and I would like to share with you my highlights of 2014 and perhaps critique my year as a whole. Self-reflection is a healthy habit and I believe sharing it with whoever reads this is a great way to evaluate and strengthen my body and soul. Hopefully you may also find what I have learned in the past year helpful.

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In a fitness related aspect I am glad to announce that 2014 has probably been my most healthy year. I have repeatedly fine-tuned my recipes and general lifestyle to compliment my workouts. It has now been a year and two months since I quit smoking religiously and began my journey towards a healthier lifestyle. There has been a few bumps along the way as was expected but I think its fair to say that overall it has been and continues to be a rewarding regime. Trial and error has been a key approach to everything I do and I am eager to admit that some of the things I tried and wrote about in the past may not have been %100 true. While I have always been careful with my claims by saying things like “what may work for me may not work for you,” I still feel some of my revelations maybe have been a little misleading. But I stand by two things, which I believe I will continue to reiterate throughout my blog. The first is that we NEED to make mistakes. The same way I have often been mislead I wish the same for those who read my writing, as I highly believe that as humans we must make mistakes in order to overcome. Secondly, everything we do has to fulfill us in one way or another. If we do not put our hearts and souls into the things we do then we might as well not do them for it is a waste of both time and effort. So here´s to being happy and making mistakes!

Naive

So what are these mistakes I speak of? You may ask yourself. Well, there were times where I encouraged everyone to try certain diets that may not have been the healthiest or maybe they seemed right at the time. Also, I may have encouraged people to over train or overwork themselves at the gym. Perhaps, broadly speaking, my biggest flaw in my blog is that I sometimes give the impression that I religiously follow diets and work mindlessly. I don’t. I am quite frankly not nearly as “perfect” as my blog may presume. On second thought I really don’t believe in societies definition of being “perfect,” thus the quotation marks. My life is not some Hollywood movie and I´m no Dwayne “the rock” Johnson in one of his blockbuster roles. I´m merely human. I guess what I am really trying to convey here is that it is perfectly okay to give yourself a break when it comes to healthy living. In fact, slipping or falling off is a perfectly natural thing. Where I used to force myself to follow my regime like a Nazi I now go easier on myself. So for the past year I have practiced “letting go.” By that I mean, whenever I feel something is stressing me to the point where it controls my life I simply let go and indulge myself in whatever I am abstaining from. I practice consciously letting many things go whether it comes to dieting or even arguments. Generally speaking if I am in a position where I am doing something I am unhappy with then I am abstaining from happiness, and that is a big NONO. I´ve always said I would rather live a short and amazing life than a long dull one, although I strive for both amazing and long. Speaking of indulging, I have had a few cigarettes along the way. If I am confessing I might as well go all out! I have maybe had two packs of cigarettes since I decided to stop. Sometimes I really feel like having one so I strike a deal with myself that I would only have one. I look at healthy living like a never ending train ride in which you need to occasionally stop, get off, stretch your legs and hop back on. Or they can be compared to little pit stops, only instead of changing tires you consume a big fat cheeseburger with a side of pizza slices for good measure.

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So with that in my mind I have been trying to find balance in the past year. As nothing is white or black we cant always judge things from an impulsive perspective. Too much of anything is bad as is too little. We should strive to find the sweet spot in our relative environments. SO feel free to devour a whole chocolate cake while knowing that you have the discipline to burn off the calories after. Its your body and you know how it works more than anyone else, so find YOUR balance, like my girlfriends step mom likes to say “alt er relativt.”

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2014 has been an experimental year in many ways. I tried out several diets with different workouts and I have come to find that one thing is true. It does not matter so much how strict or gruesome your fitness regime is, so long as you make a plan that is both convenient and realistic, convenient in a sense that your meals can be prepared in timely fashion and realistic in a sense that it is easy to keep up with. I guess setting goals becomes a vital step when making a plan because you shouldn’t really partake in a fitness journey without predicting what the destination will look like. Or maybe you’re the type that likes to live riotously! I´ve tried that it was not fun. Enjoying your plan, however, is vital. You HAVE to find pleasure in what you do. I repeat, you HAVE TO FIND PLEASURE. Don´t sit there and repeatedly eat dry chicken breasts and doing two-hour cardio sessions just to have a six-pack. A six pack combined with a divested soul is worthless! Enjoy your life with the people you love. Find the right balance between happiness, love and fitness. I wish you all a positively challenging and fruitful 2015.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Bitter Truths and Exceptions

I will be 25 years old in March. I have lived in 4 different continents and 7 different countries. I have adapted to several different cultures and picked up 5 languages in the process. I have gone to 9 different educational institutions amongst the different countries. I have gone through socially challenging times in my life and have experienced psychologically detrimental insistences. Being the optimistic and lighthearted person that I am I have learned most of my lessons the hard way and continue to do so. I am not saying this to validate any views or opinions I’m just trying to build a connection between my experiences and my perspectives. In my journey across this miraculous mechanism we call life I have come to find underlying truths. Perhaps I should say relative truths because these truths appear as they are based on MY trials and tribulations. Furthermore, I would like to discuss some of the ideas I have stumbled upon that hold true in my eyes while at the same time are subject to change the further I endeavor in my life journey. While these theories may appear gloomy I will do my best to counter the effect, as it is my ultimate belief we are all respectively required and responsible of spreading joy in our world.

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Looks matter

We all like to pretend that aesthetics is not an overwhelming factor when we encounter one another. We are a culture consumed by image as much as we´d like to deny it there is overwhelming evidence to support the idea that opportunities open up more frequently for people with appealing looks. Having said that, however, a person’s image is not necessarily summed up by physical appearance. We have all met people that we did not consider good looking perhaps after first glance only to change our conviction after getting to know the person more profoundly. Some people attribute their appeal to relatively good genes while others attribute their appeal to charisma. Sometimes its not even obvious what it is that renders a person appealing, which is what we like to describe as “je ne sais quoi.” Often times though it is a combination of features as it can be described as a package. Nonetheless, with my experience, I have come to find that those with the capacity to appear appealingly enigmatic find themselves in favourable instances more than others. However, exceptions exist.

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Your value

We all have some kind of value amongst our respective social groups. Whether it is amongst colleagues, friends or family, we all are all rated in some sort of unquantifiable fashion that deals with feelings. I have to come to find that although we say things such as “I love you no matter what” we all have, to an extent, some sort of expectations. The truth is we will stray away from people that don’t stimulate us in a somewhat fundamental level, we sometimes do so unconsciously. We see a perfect representation of this in animals as they abandon their injured links with the verdict that they are no longer useful to the pact if they are unable to hunt efficiently. As humans we are less abrupt and would rather withdraw from someone more diplomatically. Within our social groups we all expect someone to make us laugh, someone to help us, or someone to heal us and like it or not we unconsciously place value on one another based on how they make us feel. Of course circumstances change and some people become more important to us given the situation at hand. It is funny how relationships are derived from a very self-centered position and while you may think some people like you for being a “nice guy” they actually like you for as long as there is something you can do for them. However, exceptions exist.

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Happiness is attainable

One of my good friends likes to reiterate that happiness is almost completely a fabrication within one´s mind and spirit. While sometimes events are completely out of your hand and you cannot help the way it makes you feel, I do believe there is some truth to the saying “it is what you make it.” Allow me to emphasize. Sometimes we have it embedded in our heads that we are stuck doing something we do not enjoy when we fail to realize that this specific path and feeling followed a choice. If we choose a path that leads to an unfavorable feeling then we can also make a second choice to counter that feeling. I talk a lot about this in past posts about the importance of healthy thinking. We have all experienced being in a situation we really do not want to be in when all it really takes to get out is making a choice that may appear difficult in the moment. I have learned that the secret to positive thinking and being mostly happy is to not take life too seriously. Sure you need to put effort into areas you want to see develop but it is definitely possible to achieve great goals while also leading a nonchalant lifestyle. Someone, somewhere living with a salary of one dollar a day probably strongly disagrees with me, but there are exceptions.

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You are alone

This is a reality I have struggled to grasp in my life. Your life is yours and yours only to live. Others can persuade you, accompany you, take care of you but ultimately you will or should lead the life you desire. I think it truly is a shame that most people do not live up to their full potential in a given area simply because they never had the right support or guidance. I have made the mistake plenty times before of allowing exterior opinions overcome my personal intuition and desires. I am a keen believer that it is better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb as opposed to being at the top of one you do not. Thus, one of my biggest fears in life in life is growing old and not having pursued many of the things I´ve always wanted to out of fear or embarrassment. I do not encounter many passionate people. Whenever, I hear someone preach about how much they love something I always try to investigate what it is that they love and often times I get the same dull response, “everything.” Its almost as if people eventually find a ways to trick themselves into believing they enjoy their work and then validate their struggles by undermining whatever fantasy they previously gave up on. As long as you do not hurt anyone, you should be free to lead any life you want free of judgement or expectations. Only you will truly regret not living up to your full potential so make it count!

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Failure is a friend

I have failed so many times in life and my parents will tentatively attest to that. But the truth is I am not afraid of failing. In fact, I have come to find that you can only truly succeed after having failed countless times. I cannot not even recognize or appreciate success if not having failed before in a particular area. As long as failure does not lead to something extreme or irreversible, I consider every mistake an opportunity to grow. It is also a great source of motivation. Sometimes I think to myself, as bad as something potentially gets is the direct opposite of how good it can be. Failure is usually associated with being negative, however, there are countless exceptions.

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No certainties

When I was in middle school life appeared so simple to me. Everything was black and white in a sense that if you commit a crime you go to jail and if you do good you lead a comfortable life. While it seemed all perfect and teletubbie-like I quickly found that that was not the case at all. I found out that there are many more factors to the equation with a ridiculous amount of inconsistencies aka a HUGE grey area. The truth is nobody has everything figured out no matter how smart or confident some people appear to be. Everyone has emotional and personal battles that no one knows about. I have come to find that there are no certainties in the pursuit of anything there are merely relative assumptions validated by statistical data. An example of this is when we hear that over 60% of marriages fail. I think data like that shouldn’t even exist! Things change, standards change, mentalities change and while the average person believes in systems and methods we are all realistically just figuring out things as we move along. As much as people preach and as logical as it sounds, nobody can truly guarantee anything, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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You have to give in order to receive

This is something I have come to grips with especially in the past year of my life. No matter what it is that you desire, you have to give in order to receive. If you want power you have to empower. If you want love you have to give love. If you want attention you have to give attention. Its sort of a scale that balances it self out based on what you invest. Even if you need help, then you must first offer help. I constantly browse youtube videos and fitness blogs as sources of motivation and believe it or not one of my biggest inspirations are the words that I render into my personal blog. I feel as though somewhere out there someone will resonate with the ideas that I share and that knowledge inspires me. So when you conclude to yourself that something is lacking in the world consider whether or not your provide it firstly. As the saying goes “smile and the world smiles back at you.” I would like to think that there are no exceptions to this.

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We are all the same

When I was 14 I remember asking myself “if I grew up in a different society, would I still hold the same beliefs, religiously or otherwise.” I played with the thought for many years until I have come to find that fundamentally we are all the same. Regardless of race, religion, complexion or shape, the only thing that really differentiates us is circumstances. Yes some “research” will show that perhaps we are genetically predisposed to behaving or thinking a certain way but I do believe that ultimately we become the people circumstances allow us to become. However, as much as this sounds contradictory I do believe that once we embrace our similarities we can then stand out as individuals. Its sort of like recognizing a flaw before amends can be executed. In other words, I believe recognizing that we are profoundly the same sets the platform for us to express ourselves outstandingly. I think it is the exact moment where we accept that we are purely a result of uncontrollable forces that we consciously start finding our respective tenacities and while our beliefs and understandings will mostly be dictated by our past subjections we can at least come to terms with the prime reasons behind why we are who we are. We are over seven billion people who need water, clothing, shelter and food, which make us beings. However, we have the capacity to live, love and cry, which makes us humans. Generally speaking, we are all the same, but specifically there are exceptions.

I initiate a lot of conversations with “older” people at my work in which I discuss life related ideas with. Not to sound as if I go to work to talk, but I feel as though in my discussions with clients above 40 a certain energy is discharged. I get an over abundance of quotes such as “wait til you get to my age” or “don’t ever get children,” which they would jokingly utter but at the same time I catch a whiff of truth. I find it sad to think that being a realist also means to a certain degree being a pessimist, or so “older and wiser” people would tell me. SO either I am hanging with the wrong crowd or the the world is generally filled with contagiously unhappy people. But it’s a tough life to lead when you always believe there is a hidden agenda, or that you are a victim of difficult/unlucky circumstances, or that life in general is more dark than bright. I honestly believe that these so called rules are flexible. I am well aware that times will change and with that there may be more difficulties and challenges. However, my fairytale belief that all humans have the capacity to do good and be exceptions to the unfair predilections of life is something I plan on holding true for a long time. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I know gratitude, power of will and a whole lot of smiling will brighten my journey. And yes this is the biggest truth of them ALL!

Thanks for reading 😊