Provoke Thought

Sometimes, your thoughts and emotions are going to flow naturally. If you’re a creative type, you’ll be able to write a story, take a picture or compose a song with little effort. Other times, it’s going to feel like it’s impossible and you’ll never be able to successfully create something full of emotion again. From what I’ve experienced, this unfortunately happens all too frequently.

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This is something that happens not only when you’re creating art but also in many other aspects of your life, whether it’s performing well at your job, maintaining your health or loving someone special. Some days are naturally going to be easier than others. You’ll wake up ready to go and everything will seem to go your way. On these days you’ll wonder why you ever struggle…and then it happens again.

On the tough days it’s important to remind yourself that struggling is a natural part of life. It’s those that are able to make a conscious decision to work through this struggle that are ultimately able to find success. If your spouse is just getting under your skin, start by taking a deep breath and realizing you’re in control. Realize how important this person is to you and make a conscious decision to love. Be open and honest about what may be bothering you and simply say “I love you.”

If you’re having a tough day at work, start by taking a deep breath and realizing you’re in control. You may not be in control of everything at work, in fact there may be very few things you are in control of. But most importantly, one thing you are in control of is yourself and your reactions to the things happening around. Don’t let something out of your control get under your skin. Focus on what you can control and do that the best you possibly can. Soon, you’ll find that the other things that were bothering you naturally fade away and improve due to your positive actions.

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Whatever the case may be, you’re going to have good days and bad days. On the bad days, take a step back and find something that helps you provoke thought, regain control and right the ship. One thing that works in my life is music. Music can alter feelings and emotions almost immediately. A few beats below are some of my favorites to throw on to just get me thinking. Thinking about what’s going wrong, thinking about what’s going right…just thinking. Find what works for you and use that to gain control of your life and your happiness, especially on those tough days we all have.

J Dilla – “Feel The Beat”

DJ Premier – “B-Line”

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Stay True

Two of the most influential people in my life are Warren Buffet and Jay-Z. On the surface it looks like these guys have nothing in common. Warren Buffet is in his mid-80’s, lives and grew up in Omaha, NE and is much more qualified to have a discussion about how much he loves drinking coke than how he came up on selling coke on the streets. As the world already knows, this is exactly how Jay-Z got his start in the Marcy Projects of the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, NY.

Both of these moguls, though extremely different in some respects, are exactly alike in others. They have both found amazing success due to their discipline and mindset regardless of their backgrounds and the industries in which they operate. The stock and hip-hop markets can both be very fickle. Many participants in both are all about the flavor of the day or hot new trend.

Investors routinely deploy large sums of money in companies that appear to be riding the latest fad only to see valuations become unreasonable and result in a crash, as we saw with the dot-com bubble bursting in the early 2000’s. Similarly, record companies are known to spot a new style or hot rapper and push them for an album or two before the market loses interest.

At the other end of the spectrum there is Warren and Jay. Both have been around since they started their careers and are the epitome of consistency. Warren is famous for finding and purchasing undervalued companies and holding them. A bad day in the market means nothing because over the long-term the market has consistently risen and this is something Warren preaches in all of his interviews. Pay no mind to the daily ebbs and flows of the market, in the long run it will result in success (assuming a sound investment in the first place) and allow you to sleep at night. The majority of investors take a drastically different approach, looking to make a quick buck and capitalize on the short-term fluctuation of securities. This is more of a guessing game resulting in higher fees and frequent capital losses.

Jay’s first album, Reasonable Doubt, came out in 1996. Since then he put out an album a year through 2003’s The Black Album when he “retired”. After “un-retiring”, he then went on to release five more albums, with his latest 4:44 coming this year. On top of this, Jay has been involved in fashion, real estate, sports, sports clubs and streaming music services just to name a few. This type of consistent hard work, growth and amazing success is not something you see everyday.

Warren Buffett and Jay-Z are the models of consistency. These two have been able to stay true to themselves and stick to what they know over two very long and successful careers.

Apply this lesson in your life.

Be consistent in what you go after, how hard you work to get it and how you present yourself to others. With a disciplined approach and the right mindset, you will undoubtedly achieve success.

 


Take the Bus

There is nothing more frustrating than running late for work, rushing out of the house, turning on to your street and getting stuck behind a school bus…

Something hit me as last week as I repeatedly stopped and watched that dreaded octagon fling open over and over, tacking on precious minutes to my commute during an already busy rush hour. Everything was going to be fine. It always is. There was no need to stress and ruin my morning over nothing.

In addition to this, I realized the importance of throwing up the stop sign and opening my door to a new lesson, a new experience whenever it chooses to present itself. With each struggle comes a new lesson and eventually comes strength. Never did I think a stressful morning would lead to seeing the world in a slightly different way, but it did. Train yourself to never let something control you and your mind to the point where you are blocking out positive things in your life. When you lack control, you will see the most insignificant of things start to control you and your happiness. Sometimes you just need to take the bus…

Wait.

Watch, listen, think, understand, learn.

Ride.

Watch, listen, think, understand, learn.

Teach.


The Modern Day Samurai

Eastern philosophy and religion has always been something that interests me. The first book I read related to this way back when was the Tao of Pooh. At the time, I think I was in high school, I had no idea what the hell I was reading. It was really the first thing I had read that was phrased in a different way and wasn’t straight forward about the point trying to be proven. The best part was that there wasn’t only one point that a reader could take from any given lesson, it was up to the reader to take what they wanted.

I found that a lot of books about Eastern philosophy and religion were presented in a similar way. After the Tao of Pooh, I read the Tao Te Ching, which was even deeper. I’m sure I don’t understand even half of what’s going on in the book, but I do know that I was able to take some valuable lessons from it. Every time I go back and read some more, I feel like I take something new from it.

This book led me to the Art of War by Sun Tzu. I thought I didn’t understand these other books, but now I was really lost. I had no military experience, no real experience fighting of any kind. So to be honest, this one was lost on me for a while. I was looking for the lessons, but I was thinking way too literal and I just couldn’t’ find the application in my own life. Then, one day it slowly started to make sense to me. No, I was not a general planning for battle. But I was a student studying for a test. I was a college graduate prepping for an interview. I was a young professional working late to get ahead…for all intents and purposes, I was a general planning for battle.

Once this clicked in my head, I started to find a way to apply all of these war and battle references to my own life, to some degree. I started to think of myself as a sort of general, or samurai even. This is a way of thinking that has stuck with me for some time now, finding similarities between my life and that of a samurai. In some respects, I am the furthest thing from a samurai. When I look past some of the literal meaning – I’m not planning on cutting off anyone’s head or riding into battle on my horse anytime soon – I’ve found that I tend to live my life, and want to live my life, with the focus and determination like that of a modern day samurai. I eventually made my way to Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. There are some great lessons in this book when broken down and applied to your life and your situation. I will no doubt be inspired many a time and reference this book in this blog in the future.

In short, when you are looking for lessons in your life, don’t take things too literal. Look past the literal meaning of things. Use your imagination and creativity to find a way to compare things to your own life. When you start to open your mind, who knows what you’re going to find.

Sharpen your sword and get ready for battle.


Always a Way

It is never a question of whether you can do something or not. The real question is how bad do you want it?

There are countless stories of people from every walk of life beating the odds and accomplishing something that no one, probably even themselves at times, thought they could accomplish. From cancer survivors to successful entrepreneurs to professional athletes, there are qualities that remain consistent.

Drive.

Determination.

A willingness to sacrifice.

A willingness to work hard.

These, of course, are only a few. A quick study or observance of anyone whom you find to be successful in life will easily reveal what’s necessary to become successful. Watch the actions of someone at work. Listen to a parent. Talk to a friend. Lessons can come from anywhere. Use these lessons to help you realize that anything is possible.

Never grow accustomed to losing and remember that if you “want something bad enough [you’ll] always find a way to get through.” – The Stones

Also check out Tim Ferriss’s blog. I recently found Tim’s blog and podcast and discovered that his approach is similar to the thoughts presented in this post. In his book, Tools of Titans, he discusses the different traits that have led to success in a wide array of industries and professions.

Never stop looking for the next lesson and those that have found success in life are a great source for it.


Comfort Zone

 

Chess Life

One of the hardest things to do in life is to step outside your comfort zone. We all like to be around people that we know well and do things that we’re very comfortable with. Being comfortable is a great feeling and one that you should be sure to enjoy when you have it. If we never stray from always seeking comfort, however, our growth will stagnate and over time, you will be less likely to accept new challenges. You will find yourself being comfortable, but never reaching your true potential. For some that is OK…for others, that is not an easy truth to accept. I tend to fall in the latter group.

Take time to reflect on your life and what you’ve accomplished to this point. Is that enough for you? Do you think you can achieve more? If you think you can, then you can. One way to start down the path of continued growth is to find ways of taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Seek new challenges at work and in your personal life. Doing new things will surely bring about fear, anxiety and a general feeling of being uncomfortable. As you learn more about these new experiences, however ,you will find that there is nothing to be afraid of. Knowledge overcomes fear and will lead to strength. In time, you will look back and be grateful that you accepted new challenges. You will realize that stepping out of your comfort zone has made you a stronger person, one that has overcome fear and replaced it with an excitement for becoming a better person in life.

“By deliberately putting yourself in situations where you have to face fear, you familiarize yourself with it and your anxiety grows less acute. The sensation of overcoming a deep-rooted fear in turn gives you confidence and presence of mind. The more conflicts and difficult situations you put yourself through, the more battle-tested your mind will be.” (Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War)

Ain’t nobody been where I’ve been…

They’re at a standstill…

I know that I ain’t got much time here…

Nas – “Let There Be Light”

 


Between the Pages

At one time or another, we have all felt lost.

The origins of stress in this world are countless. Personal struggles, tough relationships, career paths, illness…these only begin the list. We sometimes feel that we have to take on the world alone. In a sense, this is true. With everyone in this world dealing with their own set of problems, it is on you to deal with yours. To do this, attempt to reflect on your own life. Identify and break down each of the origins of stress to gain a better understanding of them. Continue what has worked in the past and change what has not. There is a reason some things do not work out in your life and it’s important to accept them and move on with your life. 

You cannot remain dwelling on endless games.

As you begin to understand more, unanswered and sometimes daunting questions will soon be answered. The lesson will be learned and over time, the student will become the teacher. Stress will begin to wane as you discover the true meaning behind the happenings in your life. This sometimes takes looking at your life from another perspective. Ask questions. Look beyond the things you see everyday.

You can find the world written between the pages.

Soon, you will realize that all along it was you that was able to break down your life into manageable pieces, understand the origins of your stress, become hungry for more wisdom and live a positive life. 

Ryan Egan – “Between the Pages”


Approach

Education is one of the most important things that we can seek in this world. An educated person will be well equipped for success in all areas of their personal and professional lives. As you become more educated, however, you are going to become more aware of the mistakes that people in your life are making. This may be something so trivial as the incorrect pronunciation of a word or something a bit more substantial, such as making a financial or professional decision that will likely lead to unwanted results.

It is natural to want to pass on some advice that you’ve learned from your own life experiences, but in order for your advice to be trusted and followed, it is essential that you find a proper way of educating someone without insulting or embarrassing them.

“By bringing shame to a person, how could one expect to make him a better man?” (Hagakure)

If you take a direct approach and call out someone who is making a mistake, they will almost definitely take offense to your correction. Even worse, this approach taken in front of others will certainly embarrass the person. By finding an indirect way of providing the correct information, you will help the person realize the mistake they have already, or were about to, make. This lesson was one that Marcus Aurelius learned from the literary critic Alexander…

“Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion – and insert the right expression, unobtrusively.” (Meditations)

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Life is all about your approach. Your ability to be trusted by your peers and seen as a true teacher, and leader, is no different.


Fair Process

Sometimes life is fair. Many times it’s not.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position of leadership, it’s important to remember that not only do people care about outcomes, but how they are treated and whether or not they are being treated fairly. When treated fairly, they will more than likely be motivated to continue working with you and for you. On the other hand…

An abuse of power is likely to result in a loss of power.

Seek fair process.

 


Break The Law

It’s so easy to get used to what we do everyday, to get used to a routine.

Wake up.

Get ready. Commute. Work. Commute. Eat. Relax.

Go to sleep.

Repeat.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves to do something out of the norm, something that’s out of our daily routine. After you wake up, go out for a run before you get ready for work. Write down some thoughts that come to you while you’re working out. What I’ve found is that this is usually when I do my best thinking. The mind is fresh and it hasn’t yet been polluted with the stresses of the day. It may lead you to thinking more about your life and the lives of the people you love.

Are you really treating yourself and others the way you want to? 

It’s doing different things, maybe things that are typically out of your comfort zone, that start to provoke thinking differently. Maybe the situation I mentioned above is something you do everyday anyway, maybe it’s something you never do. What you should really start to think about is how you approach life and the things you find yourself doing all the time. Growth comes from doing something new and different, and that can only start with you. Know that it’s OK to do something out of the norm and “break the law” every now and then. Not in a literal sense, of course, but you probably wouldn’t have kept reading this blog if you thought of everything in a literal sense anyway…

Mac Miller – “Break The Law”