Pirsig’s Quality and Job’s Perfection

 

Introduction

        Steve Jobs. It is indisputable that in his pursuit of excellent products, he changed the world. Steve constantly was searching for perfection in everything, pushing himself and those around him beyond what they thought was possible. The biography Steve Jobs, written by Walter Isaacson, is a profound journey through the life of this amazing man and the incredible development of the most valuable company in the world, Apple. In this essay, I will be addressing and interweaving a few main things: 1. Jobs’ pursuit of incredibly high-quality products and his obsession with the intersection of art and technology; 2. The importance of having grit and gumption as an entrepreneur; and 3. Quality and Gumption as explored in the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), written by Robert M. Pirsig. This essay will cover some important traits for entrepreneurs from class, such as perseverance and grit by referencing Jobs’ life and his obsession with quality. Then it will connect parallels from the two aforementioned novels and show that the pursuit of quality is of the utmost importance both as a person and as an entrepreneur on the road to success. It will also expand on the concept of grit from the week ten reading by introducing gumption as a product of Pirsig’s ‘Quality.’

        

Part One

        In class and in the textbook we have talked to some length about different traits of successful entrepreneurs. Some of these traits are: perseverance, resilience, being open to rejection, being comfortable with discomfort, being creative, having prior experience in an industry, having strong social networks, and having grit. While Steve Jobs had all of these things throughout his life, which certainly contributed to his success, one key thing that is missing from this list is arguably Jobs’ most valuable trait: his obsession with perfection and high-quality products. At his funeral, his wife said about him the following: “His mind was never a captive of reality. He possessed an epic sense of possibility. He looked at things from the standpoint of perfection” (Isaacson, 530). Steve was always looking beyond the realm of possibility that most normal people live in, he was incredibly hard to satisfy, and he was always searching for the perfection. In his development of products, he strived over and over again to create the best things he could. When Steve was a child his father taught him one of the most important lessons he would ever learn. “It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. ‘He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see’” (6). For the rest of his life, Steve would keep this lesson at the forefront of his mind. In every product he made, he would insist on perfection, whether it be rounded edges of rectangles for the first iMac or beautiful screws inside computers where they would likely never be seen. In an interview with Fortune magazine Jobs said that “‘Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in the successive outer layers’” (316). Jobs was obsessed with simple, understandable, and high-quality, perfect products.

One of Steve’s greatest traits was his intuition to simply know how high-quality something was (I will touch more on this as it connects to ZAMM in part 2). Steve, in his twenties, became a pursuer of the zen ways of Buddhism, which would lead to both his understanding of simplicity and to his incredible intuitive nature. In the chapter about Jobs’ legacy, Isaacson says the following about Steve:

Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead (522).

Steve trained his whole life in the ways of sensing the future, understanding the quality of things, and taking the necessary steps to pursue perfection. He simply would not settle. He had grit. For Steve, one of the things that pushed him to develop the highest quality products was his love of art and his understanding of the intersection between art and technology, between romantic and classic.

Being a visionary comes down to understanding what is missing today and making it real tomorrow. What Steve decided was missing in all the industries he aimed at  personal computing, music, phones, and tablets — were high-quality products that fit right at the crossroads of art and technology. Towards the end of his life at the launch of the iPad 2, he made it very clear what he meant by this intersection. “‘It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing’” (485). What made and still makes Apple an amazing organization was and is its intrinsic pursuit of products that make hearts sing. This “architecture that was bred not just into the organization he had built, but into his own soul” was and is today the driving force of innovation and excellence at Apple. “The iPod became the essence of everything Apple was destined to be: poetry connected to engineering, arts and creativity intersecting with technology, design that’s bold and simple” (362). Steve was always focused with his laser-like mind on the importance of this intersection because he knew that at this intersection came products that consumers love and understand intuitively and products that break away from the pack and lead the way in innovation. Ron Johnson said about Steve: “For Steve, less is always more, simpler is always better. Therefore, if you can build a glass box with fewer elements, it’s better, it’s simpler, and it’s at the forefront of technology. That’s where Steve likes to be, both in his products and his stores” (347). Steve always pushed himself and those around him to be at the forefront, to be at the top of the ladder of quality, by placing himself at the intersection of art and technology.

Part Two

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig talks extensively about the concept of Quality, which he eventually, refuses to ‘define’ and lets the Ancient Greeks philosophers give a shot at defining:

“And what is written well and what is written badly — need we ask Lysias or any other poet or orator who ever wrote or will write either a political or other work, in meter or out of meter, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?’ What is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good — need we ask anyone to tell us these things” (405, Pirsig)?

        Essentially, what he means by this is that Quality is something that humans know inherently, intuitively. This idea directly supports Steve’s obsession with Quality and his intuitive understanding of high-Quality. Consequently, Steve would consistently become irate with all of the knock-off versions of his products. Adam Osborne, one of the first inventors of a computer once said “adequacy is sufficient. All else is superfluous.” Jobs laughed at him for days and said “he’s not making art, he’s making shit” (112, Isaacson). While Osborne’s creation was not a knockoff of Job’s, Jobs had the same attitude towards Bill Gates and his Microsoft products for many years. He would always say that Microsoft’s biggest problem was that they were never at the top because they couldn’t innovate for themselves and thus they couldn’t have the best, highest quality products. Many times Jobs would say that companies like Sony, Microsoft, and eventually even Google ‘just didn’t get it.’ Apple’s competitors were unable to innovate and produce high-quality products because they lacked Steve’s understanding of the intersection of art and technology.

        In ZAMM, Pirsig writes extensively about this intersection, just as Steve praises it as one the most important things to understand. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was released in 1974, just three years before the Apple II, arguably Jobs’ first immensely high-quality product. Jobs applied his father’s lesson of perfection inside and out “to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines we not straight enough” (68, Isaacson). At this time in America, there was a post-hippie movement rebelling against technology and Steve knew it. He knew that the way forward in the world was to be hip, artistic, and to really lead the way in connecting technology and art. Pirsig says about Quality that it is capable of splitting a world into “hip and square, classic and romantic, technological and humanistic.” He follows this by explaining that if it can split these things apart “it can unite a world already split along these lines into one.” He says that “a real understanding of Quality doesn’t just serve the system, or even beat or escape it. A real understanding of Quality captures the system, tames it, and puts it to work for one’s personal use, while leaving one completely free to fulfill his inner destiny” (225, Pirsig). This connection of Pirsig’s ‘Quality’ and Steve’s understanding of perfection and inherent belief in the creation of perfect things is amazing.

In the same period in time, these two men were developing a point of view about the world that brought together the two movements at the time: anti-tech, pro-art and pro-art, anti-tech. Pirsig and Jobs experienced great waves of success following their devotion to Quality and understanding of the magical intersection. An article in LiveMint magazine praises Pirsig as “probably the most read modern philosopher” and attributes his success to the “post-hippie, post-psychedelic, Vietnam-scarred” era of America (Sarkar). Jobs’ success is clearer and more numbers-based. With the Apple II being the money maker of Apple in the late 70s, when Apple went public their valuation went from about 5,000 USD at the end of 1977 to about 1.8 billion USD at the beginning of 1980. This is an insane demonstration of a unicorn business and it came about because Steve was so focused on creating the best, highest Quality product he could at just the right time. An important factor of a quality product is timing, In John Ballard Ph.D.’s, blog post from October 2012, he shares Steve’s thoughts from an interview. “Now, again, quality isn’t just the product or the service; it’s having the right product… Knowing where the market’s going and having the most innovative products is just as much a part of quality as the quality of the construction of the product when you have it” (Ballard). Steve knew that timing was a key component of a good product and this helped him create and execute perfect ‘visions of tomorrow.’ Because Steve was so obsessed with perfection, he knew how to push the envelope and how to pursue great, extremely high-quality things with gusto and with grit.

Grit is a quality that brings with it an increased probability of success in life. Grit is defined in the article from week 10 as “working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress” (Duckworth). In the article, the researchers explain a few studies that explore grit as it relates to success in different areas of life: University, West Point, and Spelling Bees. The authors address how higher levels of grit lead directly to higher odds of success. For instance, they show that cadets at West Point with plus one standard deviation of grit are 60% more likely to succeed than those without. What they don’t mention is where the grit comes from. They talk about how level of engagement and effort as a child leads to greater levels of grit as an adult, but this does not seem to encapsulate the whole concept and seems to be missing some crucial things. In today’s world, grit is a replaceable word. The words grit and gumption are nearly interchangeable. Gumption is one of the most important topics discussed in ZAMM. Pirsig provides a much better explanation of where gumption comes from than the authors of the article do for grit, so for the sake of this paper, let us assume that the two words are interchangeable and let us rely on Pirsig to explain to us how it is possible to acquire these qualities.

        Just like Jobs was always at the forefront of technology, Pirsig talks about being at the forefront of one’s own life or metaphorically speaking, train… Gumption:

I like it because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption. The Greeks called it enthousiasmos, the root of “enthusiasm,” which means literally “filled with theos,” or God, or Quality. See how that fits? A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption (310, Pirsig).

        The Cambridge dictionary defines gumption as “the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination.” If, like Pirsig says, gumption is derived from a connection with and an understanding of Quality and gumption means what the dictionary defines it as, then Steve Jobs was the ideal personification of gumption. Having gumption or grit in modern day society often is interchangeable with ideas such as ‘giving it one’s all’ and ‘doing whatever it takes to succeed.’ As far as qualities of entrepreneurs go, this is probably the most important one that there is. And like Pirsig shows, it comes from a dedication to Quality. Steve certainly was dedicated to quality and thus he was energized by his gumption to never give up, to persevere, and to be utterly stoic in the face of challenges and setbacks.

        

Conclusion

Arts and Technology. Quality. Gumption. Grit. Success. What has been shown in this paper? The theory comes together as a simple series of ideas. Understanding the intersection of art and technology and more accurately understanding emotions and sciences leads to a deep attachment to Quality. From here, a devotion to Quality leads to being full of gumption and capable of being gritty. This means success. By doing whatever it takes to create the best possible things, a person is empowered to become their best self, and to have the biggest impact on the world. In the Entrepreneur magazine, there is an article about transforming situations and reframing challenges by having a “whatever it takes” attitude (Zubin). Steve was often admired as being different, being a changemaker. He knew what was important to him — Quality — and he pursued it with all his might. Pirsig’s main character in his novel did the same thing and was perceived to be crazy. People who commit, who are filled with gumption, who pursue living a life full of Quality are perceived as crazy every day because inherent to this kind of life is a commitment to one’s uniqueness. Success is derived from understanding what Quality means in a person’s life and going after it with gumption and grit: doing whatever it takes to manifest one’s highest vision in the world. To end with a cliche but powerful quote from Apple, I leave it at this:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do (531, Isaacson).


Works Cited

Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster.

Pirsig, R. M. (1999). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Harper Collins.

Sarkar, D. D. (2017, April 25). The unlikely success of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Retrieved from https://www.livemint.com/Consumer/8XfvlMJvnDhNGIIePILxfK/The-unlikely-success-of-Robert-Pirsigs-Zen-and-the-Art-of-M.html

Steve Jobs on Quality. (2012, October 10). Retrieved from http://www.johnballardphd.com/blog/steve-jobs-on-quality

Zack, Z. (2016, January 15). ‘Whatever It Takes’ Attitude always works. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/269631

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.

WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! No, but Really! It’s True!

It’s 3:48 PM on Tuesday the 16th of October, 2018. It is a beautiful day outside: the birds are singing, the sun is out, there’s a gentle breeze, and the spring flowers are astoundingly lovely. I am so grateful for nature and springtime and the sun and the clouds and the flowers! But, today, I am devastated, exhausted, and terrified.

I had been studying for a few hours and the tick of time reminded me to get my daily shot of Facebook scrolling in so I habitually popped open a new tab, clicked the F key, and hit enter. Boom, in. In under 5 seconds, I was interacting with the whole world. What did I see? The usual suspects: cats, political debates, and the like. But what was interesting to me was the substantial bulk of posts having to do with the environment, climate change, and nature. I clicked on video after video, watching them through and coming to the same conclusion – our world is dying and it’s on the brink of being too close to save.

I have taken classes on the environment, sustainability, and ethics. I am somehow the president of the SCU Sustainable Business Club that I have no idea how to run. The point is, I’m at least somewhat educated. I can spit facts out about where we’re at, about how one can help the environment, about what the benefits of not eating meat are. I’m not an expert and, in fact, I’m far from an expert. But, I’m an emotional being and I feel things deeply when I experience them. So, by 3:57 PM tears are falling from my eyes as the overwhelming sensation of hopelessness is washing over me, as if a great tsunami is growing right before my window insinuating the crashing demise that awaits me. I’m scared. I’m scared for myself, for the people who have less power than I, for the people who wake up in the morning only to find our trash washing up on their shores. I’m scared for the rich people who are too ignorant or greedy or even just stupid to realize that money won’t save them from this. I’m scared for humanity and I’m terrified because it’s up to us to save ourselves.

To be straight, factual, and very clear: Our world, Planet Earth is dying. Humans are sucking the life out of our planet exponentially faster every year, every day. We are burning forests, creating trash, consuming and producing meat, filling hills and mountains with trash, we are creating a planet of disposal. It’s as if we humans think we bought a phone that we can use and then replace with the newest model. It’s as if we don’t believe that the potential extinction of our entire race is imminent. It’s as if the fear is paralyzing us, forcing us to cast our eyes to the ground in shame and keep walking forward in life, refusing to take a stand. It is up to us, to every person to save our planet because it is dying and there is no one else who will save it for us. We are not going to fly to Mars. We cannot keep doing what we are doing. Period. Many scientists believe that the world is nearly beyond saving. We are at the precipice. We all have choices to make. Our daily lives must change, we must change, our society must change and we must make it do so.

It occurs to me that maybe we’re too late, that maybe the world is already beyond saving. This would be great in ways because we would be off the hook – we would be able to go down with the ship. But we don’t know if it’s too late or not – we still might be able to turn this thing around and that’s where the shit hits the fan. The scariest possibility to me is that the world still can be saved and that if we don’t do everything in our power to save it, it will die. I’m so overwhelmed by this. It seems kind of like the problem is too overwhelming to do anything about, so why do anything at all? But, what if the only way to literally save the world is to act in every moment with the intention that that action must save the world? What if by choosing to eat meat today, I’m just barely not making enough of an impact to reverse the end of the world? What if by choosing to create a stable life for my children and not fighting for the planet I’m actually putting them at risk of firestorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the unstoppable flood of trash into every nook and cranny of the world? As we use more and more resources and the world becomes less and less abundant, people will fight more, there will be more anarchy, more violence and war. People will die for our sins. So… What can we do?

Sure, there are the personal choices to stop eating meat products, create less trash, inspire those around us, or even start movements. But are these choices enough? I don’t think they are. Sure every snowball starts with one flake, so certainly these acts make a difference, but what’s really going to shift the tides? We have to change the game we’re playing. We have to escape the black void system we find ourselves in. We have to literally change everything including our own perceptions of normal before the world will accept us not as parasites but as symbiotes. We, humans, must evolve. I’m not suggesting growing gills or wings or learning how to live in space. We must evolve our minds, our mindsets, our capacity to dream bigger than we think possible. We must set out to achieve and create the tomorrows that we only are able to make if we act together, if we work hard together, if we come together as one people united by the imminent Armageddon that will rain hellfire on all of us. We must cease separating ourselves because of meaningless facets like color, intelligence, nationality, political affiliation, familial ties, gender, sexual identifications, sexual interests, level of disability, or anything else. If you are reading this, you are human. We are all humans and we must, I repeat, we absolutely must, inspire one another to act and to change the future of our shared fate to one of love, acceptance, compassion, and survival. We are all humans and we all have a moral obligation to ourselves and to our planet and to every living thing to dream big, to act big, and to make big positive changes.

3 Ways to Get Out of a Funk and Into a Funky Life

More than anyone else I know, I tend to have ups and down, slips and slides in my life. One week I will be a happy, confident, and on my game. I’ll feel like I’m on top of the world like I can do anything, make anything happen. Then, suddenly, I’ll slip into inaction, into comfort, into laziness and stagnation. This means that over and over I’ve had to recover from these down periods, which makes me somewhat of an expert (*cough* Yeah right! *cough*). Anywayyy, I hope that this can help some people!

I recently had this happen to me. A few weeks ago I was the happiest I have been in a long time and I was working out every day, eating well, drinking water, writing, reading, and really just hitting all the bullseyes. A few days later, I was staying up until four in the morning binging shows I had already seen, I was not working out at all, I was eating like shit, and I was being altogether pretty down in the dumps. I preferred to stay in bed all day with the curtains closed and the lights off than getting out into the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still would laugh at jokes on TV shows and have ideas about life, but it was off. It was like I was happily depressed. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but it’s a doozy. Getting out of bed was hard and there was no motivation to get out of bed, but in reality, there was also no need to get out of bed, so it was fine. There was nothing pushing me and I had the free time to burn, so I did. I burned my time. For about two weeks, I didn’t accomplish anything, I watched way too much TV, I ate canned food; it was a mediocre life. All of a sudden, again, I realized what was going on and change hit me like a very fluffy and well-intentioned freight train.

Recently I decided to get my life back together. A friend of mine sent me an audiobook to listen to by a really talented life coach. I started listening to it and immediately recognized two important things:

  1. I need to get back on track and I need to own my life as mine.
  2. I need to commit to staying on track and figure out habits that will keep me on track even when the going gets tough.

So today, I’m going to talk about some ways that I use to get out of bed and back into the swing of things in life. In the future, I will write a post about some habits I have been using to stay active and accountable to my vision for my future! On that note, Way #1

Way #1: Visualize. Whys > Shoulds.

This is the first step in any endeavor. Without a vision, there is nothing to work for, there is no purpose, no drive. So, the first step is to take a step back from everyday life and spend some time thinking about what is really important to us. For example, a few months ago I was experiencing one of my slouches in life. I was down in the dumps about life and myself and I was unhappy, self-conscious and full of anxiety – a veritable anxiety monster. So, what did I do to get out of it? I read a book titled Not Nice, by Aziz Gazipura. It’s a book about how we as humans tend to succumb to the pressures of society and the people around us – how we live because of the outside shoulds instead of the inside whys. Reading the book was challenging and made really internalize the fact that this life I am living is mine to make how I want. It helped me realize that I can set any vision for the future as long it is something that I authentically want. The book asked me the question: “What do you want?” I realized I that I don’t think about this question nearly enough and at that time, I didn’t actually have an answer. When it came down to it, I had no idea what I wanted. So, I found some paper and scribbled down some answers, I called my friends and family and consulted with them about what my dreams were when I was younger, and I did a lot of thinking, often emotional thinking. This process led me to find out that I do have dreams and visions inside and that I simply get distracted by the shoulds. How does one avoid the shoulds and work hard towards the whys? Realistically, there could be many many books written about this one, but for now… Check out #2.

Way #2: Owning my life. Becoming the captain.

The number of times I have said to myself “I don’t have the time or energy for that” or “I can’t do that, it’s too hard” is astoundingly high. I tend to convince myself that I can’t do something because I’m not in the right situation or because it’s too hard. This is something almost all of us do quite often. We are creatures of habit and when we habituate a reaction to challenges that tells us that we can’t beat those challenges, then we can’t. It’s as simple as this. What we think becomes reality. So, when I am in the dumps and when it’s hard to get out of bed, I remind myself that I am the captain of my ship, the director of my play, the king of my kingdom, and the master of my own destiny. This reminder helps me snap back to reality and remember that it’s up to me to make my life matter and make it what I want it to be. It also helps me internalize the fact the shoulds of life come from other people, who are the captains of their own ships, and that maybe the shoulds are good for them, but not for me. Another key thing to do when beginning the voyage as captain of our own lives is to get out of the house and stay out for as much of the day as is possible. Our spaces draw us in and make us comfortable. We have our nice blankets to curl up in, we have our snacks to binge on, and we have distractions out the wazzoo. On the other hand, when we are out of our houses, everything around us is an opportunity to engross ourselves in the present moment. This leads me to my next trick.

Way #3: Embrace today. Embrace now.

Many times when I am in a down period of my life, I tell myself things like: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” but as we all know, this almost always means… “I won’t ever do that.” The solution to this problem is to remember how wonderful our lives are and how our time is sparse. We have a limited number of todays to take advantage of. We will never have another opportunity to live today to the fullest… NEVER. Today is today and when it’s over, it’s gone forever. That’s just the truth. The other day, I blew my own mind when I was thinking about how much time each day I spend distracted by social media and TV. I realized that I watched about 2 hours of TV a day and was on social media for about an hour. This is 3 hours every day! Some days I would even spend way more time doing these things! I did some mental math and realized that three hours per day out of 24 hours every day meant I was spending about 1/8th of every day doing these things. This might sound okay, but then I realized, that if I spent 1/8th of my days this way, I was really spending 1/8th of my life this way. I was shocked and appalled with myself and the people around me. My life is more valuable than that. The average American male lives 77 years (wow young). 1/8th of 77 is about 9.5. If someone asked me, would you give away nine and a half years of your life for X, Y, or Z, chances are, I would say no! Almost 10 years of my life projected to be spent watching TV or going on social media. That’s just unreal to me. So, we must embrace today and spend the time we know we have available to us doing the things we really want to be doing, not falling into the habits of our addictions! We must embrace the harder things like reading and exercise and with time they will become normal. Be intentional, stay active, keep moving forward and remember that today is the only today ever and it’s completely up to us to make it what we want it to be. Every moment is an opportunity for intentionality.

I’m going to stop here for today. If you want to read my next post about this topic and others, click HERE!

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day! Remember, get after it and live your life! Go listen to some funky toons and do some dancing!

If you have any tricks for dealing with this kind of stuff, send me an email! I would love to hear from people 🙂

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A Short Autobiography

A Story

I grew up as a vibrant and passionate kid, always looking for some way to imprint my own personal reality onto the world, whether this was building a fort in the woods and pretending to be hiding from the enemy or creating my ideal character while playing Dungeons and Dragons. The world was my canvas and my brain was my paintbrush. I loved searching for tributaries with which I could deliver my reality into the lives of others. This has never gone away, but for a while, it was hidden. When I was thirteen, I enrolled in Monument Valley Regional Middle School, my first real public school experience. I had grown up moving from town to town, partaking in new but familiar forms of education in Montessori Schools, Waldorf Schools, and the like. I was creative, unique, and altogether a weird kid. When I entered into the abyss of public education, the creative bug I had was squashed by the vigorous factory-esque machinery of regimented recesses and silent study time. I lost my spark in the storm of the incessant buzzing of bees, who I thought held the keys to success. I chased shadows, silhouettes of my future self as I thought he should be – successful, popular, attractive, all the middle school attributes of greatness. I was entrenched in my own pit that I had been digging, seeking the treasure I thought lay under the Earth. For years I kept walking down this path, losing sight of the sun, the trees, unable to feel the breeze on my face or the warmth of a summer day. Each moment was spent in pursuit of this dastardly lie – that who I should be is defined by others, by the masses, by my parents.

When I arrived at college, age eighteen, I was immediately displeased, bored, insatiated. I had arrived at the palace of reason, the incumbent source of my success, and the next hoop on the destination map that had been found at the bottom of the aforementioned pit. I had reached success part one, I had been afforded the gift of knowledge and of learning. I did it… And yet I felt empty. It was lackluster, it was bland. I realized that the map had been a deception, written over the years by the controlling forces of society, the invisible hand of the market, I had been played. In this moment, college imparted its most important lesson on me: Any path that is not your path is a lie, any journey that is not your heart’s journey is a road not worth travelling… In short, one’s heart, passions, loves – these are one’s greatest treasures to be cultivated, protected, and finally shared with the whole world. College had forced me onto the path of wisdom seeking and of self-reflection. College had incited in me a spark, a seed, a growing maelstrom. For this I am eternally grateful, and who knows, maybe that’s the point of college.

So, for the next year or so, in the midst of discovering new classes, new friends, new excitements and remorses, I began growing my own tree, lost for half a decade, found once more. I sheltered it from the cold of the judgemental world, protected it from the speculation of those closest to me. After it had grown into a small sapling, I started to show it to people, share my tree, my fire, my storm. I showed it around and it shocked people, some hated it, some were scared for me, some looked upon it with awe and realization. I began imparting myself onto the world once more, as I had done when I was a child. I was again the creative, searching, excited, and wise child I had been.

Yet still, something was off, my heart was morose, a twisted knot like one on an old tree took root inside me, a constant reminder that I had yet to find the answers I needed. I was overwhelmed by sadness, I felt like I was wasting away, not letting myself grow, as if my sapling was stuck as just that, a young, inexperienced tree, unworthy of greatness, unable to create change. I was scared I wouldn’t grow taller so I took off into the world, searching for more nutrients for my sacred tree, fire, storm. I travelled to far away lands, walking the streets of Asia, longing to find a source for growth, some good soil, some good wood. I began to scratch the itch of my unconscious mind, learning about people, about myself, and about how everything is interconnected and how opportunities lie in every connection. The world began to take on a new light, I could see the next handhold on the wall I was scaling. I started to read books again, I consumed everything I could get my hands on, my eyes were ablaze with the passion of growing, learning, and becoming better. If there is one thing I can say about myself, it is that I am always striving to better myself, to beat yesterday’s me and grow into the best version of myself I can create tomorrow, sometimes to a fault. It’s a treacherous path.

Finally, I was back at school, trapped once more in the perpetual swing of society’s pendulum. I felt the boredom returning again, different yet stemming from the same source. I was happy, or rather content, with where I was. I was content, yet unfulfilled. I knew there was more, I knew I could be more, do more. I wasn’t satisfied. I lived in this land of lackluster for a few months as I waited for the next chapter of my life to roll around. I was transitioning, transforming, adapting, and it felt slow, arduous, and terrible. Eventually, I was off to study abroad in New Zealand, the land of elves, hobbits, dragons, Middle Earth. I was back on track, returning to my roots, or so I thought.

My time here in Middle Earth has been one of the hardest times of my life, and because of that, the period of time in which I have grown the fastest. I felt myself slipping away, I recognized that I had no purpose in life, no driver, I was empty. I identified that I was afraid to be myself, even the thought of being me, authentically, and without hesitation caused me so much anxiety I physically felt pain. Every moment was a scrape against the blackboard, a moan of the sick. I was dying, not living. So I set aside my responsibility, my friendships, my society and took off on the quest to find myself, my purpose, my heart. I devoured books about how to be confident, searched my soul for meaning, experienced the greatest moments of sadness I have felt to date, lost track of days and weeks and finally found myself sitting on a bench in the gardens crying as I finished reading the last chapter of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had read the book before all the way through and loved it, had my mind blown by it, but I hadn’t taken it to heart, I hadn’t recognized the truth it held for me. That sunny Wednesday afternoon I had finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and with that done I reread the last chapter of Zen. Things clicked for me and I realized that I had been lost, my soul had been watching me bumble my way around for years, yearning to reconnect, but knowing the time hadn’t yet come. I walked into the forest and looked up at the sky and time slowed down, everything became sharp – I could see each vein in every leaf – clear, sounds disappeared, and I felt myself descending into my body. With a metaphysical kathunk, my soul had been welcomed back into me. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I had put in the work of unravelling the knot in my chest, massaging my way through the growing pains, and after seven years of aimless wandering, I had been formed, wholly, once more.

Now, as weird as this all sounds, I think it happens to everyone. People lose themselves when they forget that we live to be a conduit for ourselves to manifest in the world, not for someone else to use. People are constantly ignoring their hearts in favor of the trend of today or the security of tomorrow.

I am an artist, a creator, an imaginer, a diviner. I am an inventor, an Atlas carrying the hopes of tomorrow. I am striving to change the world. Fear is an impediment, distractions, in any form, a cause for aimlessness. I have always felt as if my true potential is locked up inside myself, surrounded by walls or growing inside of a shell. I have always wondered how to let out the dragon, how to unleash the power. I can’t say I fully understand how yet but I can wager a pretty good guess. I believe that the power of humans and thus humanity lies in every individual’s heart, in their passions, in their connection to their loved ones, and in their innate desire to grow. When we, as humans, take the time to connect to our literal life source and when we commit to living life authentically, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know exactly what I want to do or how to answer the common interrogatory question of ‘how will you change the world?’ but I do know that I won’t stop growing and learning until I have lived up to my own insurmountable, mountainous intentions for my life.

Moments in Snowfall

I once walked home from my bus stop in the midst of a gentle yet commanding snowfall. In the snow I watched the echo of myself be left behind with every footfall. I was struck at the brevity of each moment, at the complex simplicity of time. In my past, I could see myself leaving an audible trace on the world. In the present, I had little comprehension of the significance each step would have on the trail behind me. In my future, a distant goal enshrouded by snowfall, and a blank journey waiting to be traversed. My present moment, beyond precious and yet gone in an instant, snatched by the ever-present past. This moment and each moment beyond, while short, merits such a true love, a love at first life.

The immensity of love, such an intense caress of emotion on my heart, is the kind that makes me smile for no reason but for lack of having a reason to not. This is the love that blossoms out of bravery – a courage to breathe in the rather ordinary smattering of moments that coagulate into life as if each individual moment has the best aroma ever to be smelled. To stop and smell the roses is to stop a routine not so much of ignorance but of ignoring – for in fact roses grow everywhere around us. In every moment there is an immense universe of truly deep beauty like that that lies in the petal of a single rose. Imagine, then, the significance of the lives we are honored to partake in. If every moment can be as full as a universe of moments and we have, simply put, an infinity of moments, then perhaps we have the key, the truth, dare I say.

I believe that in a moment lies a simple a truth. The characteristics that define a moment are infinitesimally small as well as indefinite in their constitution – any given moment exists once. This is the truth of life. We cannot relive moments and to regret a moment is to lose some number of moments in one’s future, moments that can never be changed, as they are lost to the past simply in their existence.

Do not let me frighten or discourage you, for we live in a world where there is profound depth, simplicity, and overwhelming loveliness. In each moment there is a world different than the world of the moment before. As I write this, the world is adjusting atomically, chemically, physically, emotionally, in every way possible, the world will change, and us in it. This moment is different than the moment before, for in this moment I am smiling as I immerse myself in the beauty of a new song, in the heartbeat of human passion that has made such incredible sounds, sounds that change the world, my world.

The key is not to fabricate incredible moments that we surround ourselves with but to appreciate the moments we have, as they are unique and beautiful like any other. The indiscriminate truth in life is that the future is open, unknown, blinding in its brilliance.

In a world where millions of snowflakes fell around me, I found a thought I at once treasured, an idea that I was sure I must keep safe until it developed. As I have grown, I have kept this moment close to my heart, and now I share it with you. In my snowy winter wonderland, what was my role? I have discovered that my role in this journey is to relish the truly immense reverence I have for each and every moment, given that it is my moment to live and that I can live it as me, Faolan.

The world is wide open. I encourage you to ruminate as I have and beleaguer and eventually conquer any resistance to accepting and loving life as it is. If you can do this, I have utter confidence that moments will become brighter and more full or color, and that the significance of every little thing, from a blade of grass with a droplet of dew on the end, to a cloud with the face of a dragon, to a sky as purple as a cherry, to the laugh of a friend will become more valuable than is even comprehensible. For me, I live as if every moment were not my last, but as though I must recognize the inexorable truth that moments by their existence are gone even as they are born and should thus be given the respect they deserve: one of a past love, as every moment should be loved.

I wish you all much luck in the snowfalls of life and may you find roses abounding.

Happiness Lies in the Bootstraps of Those Around Us

“A pendulum could lift anything into the air but it could not lift itself.”

-Gabriel García Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude

This quote seems to be rather meaningless but when I read it I was profoundly struck with a pretty interesting metaphor. I thought to myself about the meaning behind this phrase and how similar it is to the old idea that it’s impossible to lift one’s self up by one’s own bootstraps. Earlier in the day I had been reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness in which he talks a lot about the importance of compassion. He says that by being compassionate, a person will find true happiness. Putting these ideas together my metaphor began to form.

I, Faolan, cannot pick myself up by own bootstraps, just as a pendulum can power anything else but itself (there is some artistic licence at work here, both by myself and by Márquez but go along with it). However, I am perfectly able to pick someone else up by their bootstraps, even though that would be rather awkward and I would likely just end up tripping someone. Oops! The point still stands: I cannot lift myself up but I can easily lift someone else up.

While this all seems pretty basic, the interesting piece came along because I had been reading about the Dalai Lama’s ideas on compassion as an avenue to deep happiness. I suddenly imagined a situation in which I could put my energy not into trying and failing to pick up myself by my own bootstraps but in which I would use my energy to help pick up other people. If I pick other people up, when they are unable to pick themselves up, then I would hope someone would do the same for me. If this happens, then everyone ends up being elevated to a plane that was impossible to reach with only one’s own individual efforts. This is pretty neat and applicable, I think!

In a more concrete and scientific sense, it has been proven that people who are compassionate beyond the societally accepted baseline are happier than most others. When a person is happier, they are more resilient, more energized, and more passionate, not to mention they are more compassionate! Next time you have the opportunity to do something nice for a person, however small, go ahead and do it, and then keep doing these small things and I guarantee you that in the long run you will feel more fulfilled as person!

There are few methods that I have found work for me to become a more compassionate person and to make more small acts of kindness on a daily basis and these methods are as follows:

  1. I go into every day with the intention of brightening the days of the people around me
  2. I write down a list of small acts of happiness that I want to try and then I add checkmarks next to them when I complete one
  3. I stop focusing on myself and start focusing on the needs of others
  4. I take the time to go over the times I made someone else smile at the end of the day and adjust my goals for the next day to try and inspire more of these moments

Good Luck!

Balance and Some Distributaries of Thought

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To start off, here is a cool picture I took!

Getting to it… As I grow older and gain more independence and freedom there is one thing that seems to reemerge into my day-to-day life all the time. This thing is the need for balance.

Clearly, there is something to be said for the importance of balancing different parts of life but up until this year, my life has been fairly predetermined. I had a home life with my family, school and homework, sports, and relationships. While this may seem like a lot to balance to outside eyes, there was not, in fact, a ton of freedom in my schedule. Everything I did was according to a predetermined plan created partially by my parents, society, and perhaps some by myself. Even with the volitionary activities that I participated in like soccer, most of my time was scheduled according to my coach, as opposed to me controlling myself.

When I was nearing the end of my senior year of high school one of the most important things for me was my independence. I desperately wanted to escape from the dull, repetitive, conundrum of a controlled life. As I moved closer and closer to the date when I would move away to a new home 3000 miles away, I realized the importance of the loved ones that I held dear to me. I began to independently take the time out of my normal routines to spend it with my family, both immediate and less so. My mom never controlled me but she would often highly encourage me to spend time with the family, and like the typical know-it-all teenager, I was extremely opposed to doing anything my mother said (this I have learned since, was unwise, as she’s always right, but this is a story for another time). It’s interesting to look back with some perspective on even last year, and realize that once I had the freedom to decide what I would spend my time on, I wholeheartedly put myself in a situation that I had been vehemently opposed to just months before. The summer after my senior year was extremely formative to my independent understanding of both myself and the world.

While I did begin to prioritize the things that were important to me and that would become unavailable once I moved, I lacked the motivation to do the things that I had been dreaming of doing with my friends. Retrospect leaves me with regrets over the things that I could have done and a profound (not really) understanding of the importance of today (I’ll get to this later!) At the end of my summer I had done some of the things that I had wanted to. I spent a week on the beach with some of my best friends, I made the decision to travel to a far away place so that I could shake up my understanding of the world, and I dedicated myself to spending as much time with my family as possible. Overall, it was a copacetic summer, but I have digressed beyond my intended point. To get back on track I’m going to talk about my year at college and what I’ve learned about balance.

First and foremost, when standing on tall things whilst on fun adventures, balance is of the utmost importance! Failing at balance results in falling, which I can’t really say I enjoy. I’ll bet you think I’m just being silly with this adventure stuff, right? Well, what if I were to say that to me, life is a fun adventure in which I climb many tall things and perch on top? I’ll bet that would shake up your definition of silly.

Think about it. What more is life than a series of ups and downs? What is important while climbing these peaks and descending these valleys? Balance, forethought (and adaptability), and a truly adventurous spirit.

To me, the lesson that has become most clear as I have partaken in my first year at University is that finding balance in life is incredibly important. This sense of balance is not so simple as standing on top of a mountain or even standing on one foot on top of a mountain in tree pose. This innermost need for balance seeps into every crevice of my life, often slowing me down and reminding me that it is there, that I must succumb to a deeper and better thought out version of the life that I am living.

Since coming to college, I have been overloaded with so many different opportunities, emotions, people, and experiences. There have been peaks and valleys, both literally and metaphorically. I have met more people in a smaller time than I ever had previously. Most importantly, I have finally been given the freedom and the allowance to pursue myself before all else. In the past, life has been a series of boxes to check for me (excluding the love for the people and relationships I have with those who I am closest to). It has been a series of “learn this, participate in that, feel this, express that.” The genesis of almost everything I have done for my whole life has originated outside of me. College has really taken my perspective of the world and forced me to believe in myself and my dreams, to grab them out of the sea of thoughts drifting inside my head and make them mine. If this sounds amazing to you, then we are in agreement. However, let me express my profound realization that I was talking about earlier before I continue.

I have a limited amount of time in my life and every one of my moment’s worth is defined by the amount of care I put into creating it, sharing it, and living it to the fullest.

Remember how I said that I had a profound realization? Well, that’s it. It’s not pretty and it’s not original but I think that it’s something that every person who is successful in life realizes at some point. This realization led me to a panic over the significance that my life holds, in terms of simply being me and needing to live to my fullest extent. In addition to this self-centered idea, it was scary to think about how significant my life is in terms of how much I can affect the world if I simply put my mind to it.

My life and my time are so incredibly valuable and significant.

So significant, in fact, that I am incredibly terrified. I feel the crushing weight of every future responsibility that the perfect version of myself could bear. Imagine Atlas holding The Earth. That is how I felt when I first had this realization. I understand that perhaps it is a bit egotistical to think of myself like this, but in actuality, I really feel like I can change the world in huge ways, as can anyone else. It is a daunting thought if you have the courage to internalize it into your own mind.

Following up on my last post, I believe that I have a responsibility to follow the dreams, visions, and inspirations that seem to be tugging me forward. I have the responsibility to myself and the world to do what I can to help everyone out.

Sometimes I wonder, though, If I should live for myself or for the world. I think many people struggle with this problem. I have a deep-rooted dream to see everything that there is to see in the world: I want to see the seven wonders, I want to see where they filmed Lord of the Rings, I want to climb Mount Everest, and I want to fulfill all the dreams that I have fabricated for myself. These dreams are immense and require me to apply myself to such an extent that I don’t believe I have ever actually done in my life. Yet here I am using my time in college. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this, but sometimes I wonder about why I am here and why I am not following my dreams today as opposed to tomorrow. In thinking about it, I realized I am here because I feel an obligation to exist for the sake of the world and I believe that being in college is my most efficient way to follow that path forward. The thing that keeps me positive is that I know that eventually those that choose to give their lives to benefit the world end up being the most fulfilled, but I can’t shake the constant reminders of the dreams that I try to put to rest in the back of my head.

The balancing act that I most struggle with is the balance between my dreams and my aspirations. These words may seem to be the same but to me, dreams are things that dictate the heart of a person and aspirations are those that dictate the mind. To me, dreams are the things that make people’s hearts ache and aspirations are the things that people stay up all night thinking of. Those of us who are most fortunate are those whose dreams and aspirations coincide.

Balancing such things as the mind and the heart is not something that is really explainable. To me, when I do a good job I feel like my body is alive and I am happy simply to exist, however, when I fail to care for my dreams or aspirations, I consequently feel exhausted, discouraged, and deeply rejected by the world around me.

In balancing two things comes the relinquishing of some of each. In economics, there is a simple principle that explains that when an economy is more equal it is actually less efficient. I like to think about it like I have 100 units of time and energy to spend and if I want to balance my dreams and aspirations, then I’m only putting fifty units into each, which is literally a halfhearted effort.

Soooooo, to wrap up (I think), I want to emphasize the big lessons that came out of all of this:

Individual life is significant. Time should not be taken for granted. The best lives are those where people’s dreams and aspirations are one and the same. Finding a balance between the things that are important is challenging but worthy of some introspection.

I end this post with a frustrated sigh at my computer because while I have summed up a lot of thoughts that I have been having over the past few weeks and clarified my thoughts both to myself and those around me, I have not made much progress on the decision-making tree of my life. I am still faced with the same challenges that I was before writing this. Maybe next time I’ll write about the virtue of patience and how I have none!

Creativity and Action

When I was younger I was incredibly creative. My mom encouraged me to look at the world as a place of possibility. I remember when I was younger I was fascinated with how things worked, with what I could make, and with how I could use my imagination to create a future. I used to make fairy villages out of acorns, leaves, sticks, and anything else I could find in the forest. I would carve sticks and pretend they were swords, and my friends and I would run around yelling and hitting each other or invisible monsters, literally manifesting totally new realities in a matter of moments. This kind of behavior has led me to be the kind of person I am today and interestingly enough, it has not always been a fairytale.

Creativity is so stigmatized in our society. Why is it weird for a young boy to make fairy houses? Why is it wrong for a young girl to play army as opposed to Barbie. These gendered examples only touch the tip of the iceberg and, in fact, this stigma reaches all the way through many school systems and even into many parents’ brains. Everyone knows that children are the most willing to let themselves be creative.

For children, creativity is the norm.

Creativity is lost in many people as they get older, more experienced. Many people develop a fear of expressing their most true selves, myself included. This disingenuous representation of a person is built on a lack of confidence in one’s self. For me, I find myself consistently disappointed with both my own actions and the actions of others and yet I still simply stand by and watch because I think the following:

“Who am I to change the world? Who am I to be myself?”

I think many people experience a similar sort of feeling in their lives, especially people of my age group.

College is advertised as a place where dreams come true, where people find their passions, and where we meet our soul mates. Looking at the facts, I have found there to be some truth to this, but that the concepts actually expand beyond just college.

All of these things are categorized under the title:

Potential Future

The trick is to change Potential Future to be

Actual Present

When it comes down to it, there is nothing stopping us from finding our passions, making our dreams come true, searching for our soul mates, or doing anything else that we want, for that matter, except our own perception of what is possible.

Over the past few weeks, I have been learning about the power of action.

Act. Do. Manifest. Create. Make.

This idea is so unrecognizable in our stereotypical society that we make business plans, we plan to ask people out, and we plan to go to the gym without ever doing many of the things we plan to do.

The power of action lies in its ability to snowball.

        To snowball is a term used in many gaming communities for a player who does well at the beginning of a game and gains incremental advantages because of it. The idea is representative of a snowball rolling down a hill and eventually becoming massive and unstoppable.

Imagine yourself as a small snowball at the top of a hill.

Here’s what you know:

        There are things I could run into as I roll down this hill and I have to do my best to avoid them. The longer I avoid them, the bigger and more powerful I will get. From this, it follows that I should stay here and plan my route around the trees I can see, right? Right…?

Wrong!

        You can only actually see the very near future. Humans are proven to be terrible at planning!! Why would you take the time and energy and waste it on a plan that will probably fail? Get in the game! Try stuff!

I often use this analogy in my own life when I am doubting myself or when I am feeling reluctant to DO as opposed to think or plan.

Another trick I have is to do something every day that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Many people will laugh or scoff at this theory when they see it in practice:

“That idiot, why is he singing so terribly in front of everyone?”

Things like this tend to hold us back from taking action. A comedian named Hassan Minhaj talks about how his father used to say, “What will people think?” whenever it came to making a big life choice. This attitude is essentially assuming the worst of a situation before it even happens.

This makes it impossible for us, as rational human beings, to want to pursue things.

Why would we pursue our dreams or goals if we presume that we will fail?

There is almost no incentive for action in our society. We have Stagnated.

Okay, so now that you have heard my spiel, take a second to jot down some things that you wish had done, that you dream about every day. These things could be anything from flossing your teeth more to asking that special someone out, to going to the gym, to having some time for yourself, to journaling, to going outside more, to literally anything! There is nothing too big or too small to write down here, just get it on paper. I will wait 🙂

Awesome! Now that you have your dreams mapped a little better, try and think of the reasons why you haven’t done these things. Some probable answers are:

“I’m afraid that I will fail”

“I don’t believe in myself”

“I don’t have enough money”

“I don’t have the time or energy”

“I’m not good enough”

“My disabilities hold me back”

Well…..

“What can you do right now to take the first step, however small, towards your dreams?”

We are all the deer in the headlights. We fear action that leads to failure more than we fear stagnation and mediocrity. Who are we to waste our days on these minuscule things? Why are my dreams too big for today? When will I be ready?! The world says, “maybe never,” our parents say, “maybe when you retire,” but I ask you, yes YOU, not them,

“How bad do you want it?”

        The remedy for this fear lies in action. It is so simple that it makes me sad because I have taken so long to realize this simple truth. Taking the first step towards a dream will unlock the next step and so on so forth until we have hiked the tallest mountains, reached the stars, and started on to even greater unimaginable things.

        Each of us has a responsibility to reach into ourselves and unlock our creativity that we have lost, to unlock our capacity for action that society has locked away, and be our genuine selves.

Every person has a unique role to play in this world. What is yours?

GO! START! DO! ACT!

Trust me, you’ve got this!

PS. Please harass me about all of my grammar mistakes! Thanks!

On Luck and its Creation

When you hear the word luck where does your mind go? I would imagine that most travel to an idea about a four-leafed-clover, a leprechaun, something that happened in one’s life that is unlucky, finding a dollar, being in a good relationship. What I’m saying is that everyone defines the word differently, based on what they know and have known. This is unique, in our language, because words often are given meaning by books, dictionaries, you know? Luck is a word that is given its definition by me and by you and by anyone.

Luck for me is not something that manifests fortune. Luck is something that defines the qualities with which I live. For a while I would look at my life and think, wow, I am lucky. Everything works out for me and I am happy. Recently, I have realized that I was wrong because it is not luck nor the things that luck brings that make me happy, but the ability to be happy that makes me lucky. I have always been able to go with the flow, to be alright, no matter the situation. I have realized that because I can feel happy with anything, anything that happens brings me happiness. This is luck to me, the ability to bring happiness to my life simply by being okay with all and by perpetuating the happiness that is there, to begin with.

I appreciate what I have. I’m not saying that I do not want for more, or that I have conquered my own being. I am simply saying, that the attitude with which I live is one that brings me back the feelings that I give out.

In a video, a man said the following, “I don’t analyze or question life much. I can cruise through life and always be in the right place at the right time. I always have amazing things happen to me. I’m really lucky in that situation…. But that comes from believing in luck, or believing in the power of attraction, or believing and attracting the goodness into one’s life. And I think that can be seen as luck.” This man, who has lost the use of his legs and who has traveled the earth is happy because he is accepting. He speaks of contentedness, of equal and opposite actions and reactions. What he sends into the world comes back to him. He believes that he is lucky, and so he is.

Luck is simply the understanding that life is life and that happiness is not based on anything but our own perceptions. How we feel comes from within and we can manifest this by believing. The president of Uruguay says “Either you’re happy with very little, free of all that extra luggage, because you have happiness inside, or you don’t get anywhere.” He understands that life is not about anything but creating what we want to feel. Life is there to be taken advantage of, to give us luck, and to be our savior. Many people get lost in their lives, unable to discern for themselves what matters and why. He continues by saying something along the lines of  

“I am not advocating poverty. I am advocating sobriety. But since we have invented a consumer society, the economy must constantly grow. If it fails to increase, it is a tragedy. We have invented a mountain of superfluous needs. Shopping for the new, discarding the old… That’s a waste of our lives! Because when I buy something, or when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it. You’re paying with the hours of your life that you had to spend earning that money. The difference is, that life is one thing that money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter.”

-José Mujica, President of Uruguay 2010-2015

Life is something that we cannot buy and yet people will spend their lives striving for the next thing: the new phone that is coming out, that expensive and popular clothing line, a new video game, a new TV, anything. We use our time on the earth to farm materials that we think have meaning – that we think will help us in our lives. But then we see the people who have very little material possessions and yet possess more happiness than we can imagine. To be this lucky, we think. How can I live without anything and yet be happy? It is in the mindset, I would imagine…

And yet, here I am, writing on my twelve hundred dollar MacBook, that I sat on, broke, and fixed for another eight hundred dollars. I’m sitting on a nice and comfortable swivelly chair, in my room, which I’m sure is larger than some people’s entire homes. I have food on my plate. My family is healthy, I am healthy. I am educated and going to college. I have been incredibly fortunate to be in the position that I am in. In the classic sense of the word, I am lucky: lucky to have opportunities and to be positioned both physically and mentally for potential. The world seems to have said, “go and take these things that you have been given and live.” I am but one man, with only a few years on my clock. I have had many more free and empowered seconds than some people will ever have and for this I am grateful. I am grateful and also responsible. I am responsible for the opportunities that I have. The words, “don’t fuck up” echo in the back of my head.

I’m thinking about how naive I am, about how little I know, and about how, out of all people, who am I to write this? I’m no one. I hold no real weight in the world. I write because I want to because my idea needs to be released and formed. I know that I may not be the best vessel for backing up my claims, given the life I have. However, I offer this writing, not to show off, or to ask for praise, or to mandate a practice in life, or even to tell you my own stories. I simply wish to share with others the success that I have found in the simplicity that is the manifestation of luck and the power that comes with it. Be happy, attract happiness.