We Are All Blessed.

Nobody’s life is easy. Some are easier or harder than most, but to every person, our lives are going to present us with challenges and dilemmas that are serious business to us.

And sometimes, when we see everyone else gloating about their happy lives, their happy families, their great incomes and great jobs and great friends and great hobbies… we can start to wonder why everyone else seems to have it so much easier.

But this time of year isn’t the time to be jealous, because however much or little you have, relatively speaking, you are deeply and truly blessed.

You are blessed for having had any family or any friends by your side. However alone you may be now, that acute pain is there because you were, and most likely still are, loved.

You are blessed for having an internet connection with which to read this, a way to reach out to others and simply talk.

You are blessed to be alive and breathing, to have enough food, freedom, shelter and healthcare to keep you going until now, and hopefully longer.

Those are things I know for certain you are blessed with.

Furthermore you are supremely blessed for every single thing you have above that. Every penny, cent, yen or centimo to your name. Every person by your side right now. Every gift you receive, every bite of food. For being able to hear carols and see the lights strung up about town. For having children or pets to shower with love. For all the faith and love and happiness you can hold in your heart. Not because others don’t have these things, but because you do. If everyone on the planet lived a perfect life, you would be no less blessed to be their equal.

However much or however little you have today, you are blessed to have it. Not blessed in guilt of what others don’t have or in envy of what others do, but purely and simply blessed.

And I hope you’re continually and consistently blessed with more.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Just Enjoy Yourself.

Literally.

Every human has their nuances. Every human has their own idea of perfection. Every human has their own goals.

We’re not here to please everyone. That’s an impossibility. We’re just here to please ourselves, whether we do it by having fun, seeking enlightenment, acquiring knowledge, making friends or preening ourselves.

There will always be someone who disagrees or disapproves.

The idea is to decide on what you want to become and to find people who like you both for who you integrally are and for who you wish to be. Then, just keep going, keep striving to reach your own ideals.

Because whoever you are, whatever your goals, the only thing that definitely matters at the end of the day is whether you enjoyed yourself for who you were. Enjoy your looks, your quirks, the voice inside your head that runs commentary on things you can’t talk about, the things you’re great at, the guilty pleasures that only two close friends know about, the ridiculous goals and the way things just sometimes work out. Enjoy the process of improving, of getting closer to your ideal. Enjoy the time spent reading, watching TV, preening, debating, working and relaxing.

After all, it isn’t like you’re getting it back.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Everything Dies Beautifully

As humans, we have a healthy appreciation for creation, birth, everything that is new and interesting. Which makes sense. Newborn babies, fresh fruit and innovative designs all hold promise and need to be loved and nurtured to grow and be useful to us. It gives us a sense of purpose to care for that what is new and young.

But as animals we also develop a violent aversion to it’s opposite. Destruction, death and everything that is old and samey worries us. We dislike the idea of growing old or of being hurt. But we also dislike seeing things growing old and becoming damaged. It’s as though our world is an extension of us, and we see ourselves reflected in that shirt we won’t throw away or that pet cat that died. We want everything to last forever.

The contradiction there, being of course that nothing can last forever without either becoming old or losing some interest. And nothing can be new if nothing is old. And nothing can be created without first destroying something else. Destruction, change, death and transformation are part of the process of creating new things.

A newborn life is built on thousands upon thousands of deaths, thousands of decaying, degrading bodies that break down and are reassembled into a new body. To create fire we must destroy coal and to create coal we must burn wood and to burn wood we must kill trees.

All sorts of devastating events aren’t really endings. They’re closer to recycling. Nothing can last forever in the same state because to create new things, life must first find some raw materials. Everything needs to change to keep on going, or to end and give rise to something new.

So, whilst it may shock and horrify us as animals and as humans, it’s wise to view disaster, pain, suffering, death and the slow processes that lead to them with more a sense of nostalgia than fear or sadness. After all, it’s always happening, all around us, and as life gives way to death, so does death give way to life.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

5 Ways To Be More Independent.

We would all like to be more independent. After all, we live in a world where self-deification is the norm and pride, envy and greed are all justified, as you clearly deserve everything you want.

So whether you’re one of those people who feels worthy of everything they want or need or just someone who wants to avoid relying on those people, we all want to be more independent from others. This isn’t a safe world in which to be completely dependent, after all.

So what are the ways in which we can limit our dependence on others? Here are my top five.

1.- Self Awareness.

Self awareness is the very baseline. It is a raw, amoral, unemotional, rational analysis of who and what you are. Ask yourself these questions and answer as honestly as you can.

Who am I?

What defines me?

What do I add to others lives?

What do I get from others?

What is my purpose in life?

Who chose that purpose?

Am I fulfilling that purpose?

What are my flaws?

What are my shortcomings?

What holds me back?

What are my advantages?

Am I making use of them?

What are my goals?

Are they realistic?

Do they align with my purpose?

What am I doing with my life?

Am I making good use of my time?

How much do I have left?

What are my motivations?What is my priority?What matters most?

Are any of these questions making me uncomfortable? Why?

Did I answer any of these questions dishonestly? Why? What is the real answer?

Go through them again and again until you start to get a feel for who you really are. Face every side of yourself, especially the aspects you don’t like. The less you like them, the more you need to observe them. The parts of you that you least like are the ones you need to be the most aware of.

2.- Self Actualization.

Abraham Maslow defined self actualization as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.” In other words, it is the desire to become the very best you can be, combined with a striving to become that best.

You cannot be independent without self actualizing. It is the next step from Self Awareness. Once you know who you are, you become aware of your potential. You might not know for sure how well you can do, but you will have an idea. Now you need to hunger for it.

You need to feel that compelling urge, that burning desire to reach the pinnacle of what you can be, to be the best.

Whatever you want out of life, whatever your purpose is, whatever you’re headed towards, you need to strive for it and strive to do the very best you can do.

3.- Self Sufficiency.

Part of becoming the very best you can be is cutting unnecessary dependence. And the biggest form of dependence is when you depend on others for your basic needs.

Of course, you can never actually eliminate the need for others unless you also eliminate others. If you want food, someone has to grow it, pick it and transport it. If you forage wild food you depend on there being wild plants, on having the ability to access them, on being protected from others who might interfere with your ability to forage. In short, as long as there are people, you will need people, even if it’s just to stop the other people from becoming a nuisance to you.

However there are many ways you can maximize your self sufficiency and ensure that you aren’t relying too much on individuals or organizations for support.

Look at where your money, your food, your shelter come from. These are the bare basics. The very first step is to ensure that your food and shelter come from your own money, not someone else’s. If your food and shelter come from your money, consider where your money comes from. Think of how you could use less money to have the same food and shelter. Consider whether it is preferable to work for someone else and get a stable paycheck but rely on your employer for work, or to work for yourself, rely only on yourself and your customers for work but risk earning less.

Some common forms of becoming more self sufficient are gardening, learning basic skills such as woodwork, plumbing or cleaning, installing a renewable energy source and walking or cycling rather than driving.

4.- Self Care.

The other side to reducing dependence is to reduce the need for less essential things. Other people provide company, affection, validation, stimulation. And it’s only natural to need and want these things. But we don’t want to rely on their continual supply. Needing someone else to validate you daily is as much a form of dependence as needing them to feed you is.

Instead, cultivate a form of self love through self care. This should be easier when you are self aware, self actualizing and largely self sufficient. You know who you are, where you are headed, what you want and you don’t desperately need anyone to get you there. This means you already have important, internal sources of validation: your skills, your identity, your goals.

But you need to also spend some time caring for yourself to cultivate this self love. Spending time alone if good for you. Even if it takes some effort at first, try and enjoy your own company. Make your own entertainment. Find books, films, games or hobbies that intellectually and emotionally stimulate you. Consider important questions and matters and reflect on them on your own. Play Devil’s Advocate against yourself.

Show yourself some tenderness. Afford yourself treats, relaxation time, idle hobbies and guilty pleasures.

Basically, learn to live on your own, to live with yourself. You don’t have to do it all the time. But it needs to be an option. You need to be able to be left on your own without pining.

5.- Self Integration.

Finally, I have been continually mentioning that you actually do need others for a lot of these things. You rely on either an employer or clients if not both for your income. You rely on gun manufacturers, law enforcement or other measures for your safety. If you plan on reading to liven your mind, you are relying on the writer, the publisher, the source of the book. You can never cut yourself off from humanity.

So the last crucial step to independence is to integrate yourself well into society. You will always need people. So try and only rely on people worth relying on. Rely on select people minimally and let them rely on you minimally. Establish clear boundaries in your relationships as to how far dependence can go. You want to be an active member of society. But you want to be a self aware, self actualized, self sufficient, self caring one too.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Do you view yourself as independent? What do you find yourself relying on too much? Do you find you’re at the other end of the spectrum and too detached from people? What parts of the self awareness questions did you find hardest? What parts of yourself are you fighting to reconcile with? If you feel comfortable doing so, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

25 Maxims and Philosophies to Live By.

1. Have fun, enjoy yourself. Don’t necessarily go out of your way to avoid work, just try and find pleasure in everything you do.

2. Don’t live assuming you will die tomorrow. What if you make it to 100?

3. Work hard at something you love. There’s reward in everything, even monetary reward, when you look hard enough.

4. Don’t expect anything. Nobody owes you gifts, kindness or time. Be grateful for everything you have been given.

5. What is good and right is not always what is true. Live life according to life’s law.

6. Don’t get too obsessed with this, but: You are actually the protagonist of your own life and it happens to be a choose-your-path story.

7. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s broke, fix it. If it’s broke and determined to stay that way, leave it to itself.

8. There are consequences and reactions to everything you do. Accept them and carry on.

9. Don’t get caught up in anger, sadness, thrills or worry. Intense emotions are habit forming if indulged.

10. Respect your body, the way that it’s made and its needs. It has got you this far and will carry you further. It is not a mistake.

11. Think about your future self, their needs, wants and concerns.

12. Harden yourself to critique, pain, fear, solitude, etc. You will experience them again and again, so learn to bear with them.

13. Set yourself goals for everything you do. It keeps your mind on track.

14. It’s better to invest 80% of yourself in one thing and 20% between nine than to invest 10% in each thing.

15. The numbers you are judged by matter very much to the people you have yet to meet.

16. Keep going as long as you get a step further each day. Give up when you haven’t advanced a step in three days.

17. Satisfy your desire to eight tenths of its maximum. Feel rewarded and happy, but not fully satisfied.

18. Everything has a purpose, and a second purpose, and a third purpose. Reuse and make the most of everything.

19. Only invest in something that will at least return 100% of what you put in.

20. Someone who makes many accidents is as troublesome as someone who is trying to do harm.

21. If you’re in your neighbour’s melon field, he could assume you were stealing them. Only stand there when absolutely necessary.

22. Excess of one thing usually means limitations on another.

23. Not every once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity is worth taking.

24. Others are blind to some truths and have seen truths you are blind to.

25. If it doesn’t matter, then don’t worry about it. If it matters, see what you can do about it.

“What We Really Mean Is…” or How To Listen for Code.

-Code: A sentence that has a hidden meaning the listener must infer. Metaphors and innuendo are both examples of this.

Everybody speaks differently. It’s thought that our mindsets, beliefs, cultural expectations and even our personalities are a mixture of the five to ten people closest to us. Many more can leave an impression. Therefore, no one person will speak the same way. Even two sisters living in the same home, with equal interaction from both parents will speak slightly differently to each other based on their unshared friends and teachers. However, whilst actual languages can obviously cause barriers, we are generally able to communicate with people who share our culture, language and dialect without much difficulty. Someone may ask us to visit and we understand that they mean for us to see them soon, only when we need them or they’re just being polite. Someone may ask us to tea and we know whether they mean the meal or the drink. Someone may offer us chips and we know whether they mean hot fried potato sticks or cold fried potato slices. The more groups we belong to, the more our individual code gets jumbled. For example, women and men in the West are raised to speak different code. Women use more code and require more inference than men. Therefore, a woman who is generally friends with women and generally talks to women will use a lot more code than a man who is generally friends with men and generally talks to men. Or a doctor who is very absorbed in their career may spend a lot of time talking to patients, other doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical staff and reading about their favourite subjects, resulting in an deep knowledge of medical jargon, which can cause them to use overly complex or overly simple language with people who do not share their interest or knowledge. Furthermore, a woman such as the one described above is more likely to get along with people who use her own code and a doctor like the latter is more likely to enjoy conversation with someone at their own level. Therefore, your use of code can choose your social groups for you by making it easier to speak with people whose language most resembles your own.

We also use many ways to tell when someone may be using different language to us. An accent could indicate that the language is not their first, or that they come from a different region. Clothing tells us whether they come from our culture or not. Mannerisms, body language, names and, of course, them telling us that they speak our language secondarily or come from elsewhere, will remind us to exercise caution when using local dialect, archaic words, sarcasm or humour. In short, we avoid speaking in our cultural code when we aren’t sure we will be understood.

However, rarely do we account for individual code. We may be careful not to call our recently-migrated Indian friend “our boy” or a “basic b****” unless we’re ready to explain it to them. But we assume that those who speak English as a first language, who have our accent, who come from our region and who share our culture will understand what we mean by it. In short, we assume that because they share our language, dialect and culture, that they must also share our code. This, in and of itself, is not a problem, but we’re missing the final factor.

Sometimes, there are things we don’t want to discuss. Sometimes there are lies we tell: little white lies, lies of omission or overt lies, that are actually open for the reading of someone else. And sometimes we talk a certain way around our friends, family, partner or colleagues for so long that we forget what code we use for whom, what we discuss with whom, what language we use with whom. How often have we heard or used a sentence along the lines of “What I meant to say was…” so as to avoid blowback from a sentence or even a word that caused confusion? This is why. We used code that they interpreted literally, sometimes taking great offense to. This is how most misunderstandings happen, from someone getting you the wrong drink to someone believing their partner never wants to hear from them again. When we notice them, when someone else calls us out on our use of language or declares offense, we correct or explain ourselves, usually apologizing in the process. And all is well. However, people don’t always mention when they’re offended, or when they’re confused. And sometimes they will interpret something one way, it will make sense to them, they won’t be offended or think to challenge it and will act on their inference. And when the relationship with this person has a lot at stake, then we’re more likely to be greatly affected by the consequences. Someone honest and straightforward dating a person who is unusually flighty and uses a lot of fairly contrary code will find it hard to enjoy the relationship. Someone who uses jokes and sarcasm negotiating with someone who doesn’t appreciate the first nor understand the latter could lose business. Someone faking disinterest in someone who is looking for overt interest and consent could lose a chance at a friendship or a relationship. Someone taking a sentence at face-value could be led on by someone who prefers it when others read and don’t hear their intentions.

Of course, I can’t offer a solid solution on an individual level. If you choose to avoid all code, not only are you likely to fail, but when interacting with someone who uses a lot of code, they will be operating under the assumption you’re using it. If you try and analyze all code, you’ll find that for one person “yes” means “yes and don’t ask me again”, for another it is gentle dismissal, for another it means “I’m not sure” and for another it means “yes”. Even in the same context, with the same tone, a single word will vary in meaning depending on who’s using it and be interpreted differently depending on who’s listening. On a societal level, if we could abandon all code we would probably beĀ  happier. Yet on an individual level we must simply learn to live with it and work around it.

And here is where listening and paying close attention comes in. We must always assume that someone we’re talking to, especially someone we’re talking to for the first time or outside our closest social circle, will be speaking different code to you or your friends. They may not at that particular time, or their code may be similar, but our world and culture are too jumbled to make that assumption. Where you read a certain sentence or word one way, ask yourself whether that is the common language meaning or the code meaning. Ask yourself, or even them, what exactly they meant. Eventually, once you’ve heard enough people talking, you start to notice when they are using code, which parts of your language are universal “Let’s go and have dinner at that new Italian restaurant.” and which parts are heavily coded “Let’s get some drinks.” Then you will be able to communicate using clear, universal language, adapting to use your conversational partner’s code, reading them as easily as they intend you to.

Furthermore, when you learn to look out for and interpret code you also learn to spot the secret languages people use among small social circles or to themselves. Those words and sentences that have a hidden meaning understood by one or five people, that are obviously coded, but undecipherable to the layman. When a girl calls you a “Mikey” to her friends, or a coworker suggests to the secretary that you need to “Slow down with the speed up.”, you may not be sure what they mean. Is it good or bad? In what way does it affect your relationship with these people? How does it alter any future interactions you’ve planned? Some are easy to identify, some are harder. But once you start working out code you start realizing how there are certain types of people, and each type uses code in a particular way and eventually you work out what people’s private code means. You spot their lies, their in-jokes, their manipulation.

And who wouldn’t want to communicate better with people whose intentions are good for you and better detect and use people whose intentions are bad for you?