Thursday, March 22, 2018

“The more you're willing to pay, the more valuable the prize. The question is: Are you willing to pay the price?”

1: “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
George Washington
2: “Never try to lock the virtue’s door with the key of vice
It may lock forever; never to be opened again”
Munia Khan
3: “I’m not denying their kindness,” said the Rani. “But after all kindness isn’t the only virtue.”
Aldous Huxley, Island
4: “The more you're willing to pay, the more valuable the prize. The question is: Are you willing to pay the price?”
5: “Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance sake, but for the sake of having done right?”

They say that hindsight is 20/20. When I look back at the things I've thought and done, I see the mistakes of a young man, trying to find a sense of meaning and purpose in the world, battling any regrets along the way. As the older person I am now, I realise this is human instinct at play, and that we are all trying to find a sense of meaning and purpose.

How we achieve meaning is what varies. One may aspire to become a world-class painter, an innovator that makes his or her way into households, or perhaps they aspire to climb a mountain, be it physical or metaphorical. Greatness comes in all forms.

The problem many, if not all, of us face is putting our dreams into action so that they do not exist exclusively in our minds. Frequently, the most ambitious goals are the most expensive, not necessarily financially, but one's personal resources such as time and energy. It's been said that the more we are willing to pay, the more the valuable the prize. We ought to ask ourselves if our dreams are worth pursuing or if they're something we flirt with in a fantasy world.

I've personally set myself goals and admittedly, some are far more ambitious than others. It's not necessarily a physical thing I'm searching for, but rather a sensation of life satisfaction, coming in the form of emotion from myself and the people around me. I ask myself how I can achieve this.

I think of advancing my personal education as a keystone towards my goals. Knowledge is power as is so often quoted. But I believe this to be true. As we age, our way of thinking tends to become more rigid, like some kind of mental concrete. We become less open to ideas as we become more cognitively dissonant.

I try on a daily basis to ensure that I stay open-minded and free-thinking. It doesn't stop me from making mistakes - if anything it makes me more likely to stumble on them. But I am often exposed to new ideas and some of the best lessons are those when we're down. 

Sometimes this can conflict with my personal life. As I pursue my education goals, the people around me may view my aurora as being somewhat blunt or cold. Sometimes I'm aware of it, sometimes I'm not. Regardless, none of it is with bad intention. I believe it somewhat of a necessity that things like enjoying time for hobbies, travel or relationships must be placed aside in order to achieve my goals.

It's a double-edged sword of course. I want to be a good friend and have time to enjoy life outside of the classroom and books. Pursuing a high level of competency in knowledge does not supplement a lack of varied experiences. We ought to avoid chasing a dream with such fervor that we miss the little bits of beauty all around us. Sometimes we should slow down and enjoy the sights.

As with everything in life, it's all about balance. Perhaps that should be our goal, in the end. Education is infinite. We can't know all there is to know, but it is worth the effort if it can inspire change and motivate people to emerge from stasis. I want to be as knowledgeable as I can while I am young so that some day in the future I can apply this power to build a better tomorrow.

“In our time, the curse is monetary illiteracy, just as inability to read plain print was the curse of earlier centuries.”

1: “One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.”
John Kenneth Galbraith
2: “We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
3: “99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.”
Ron DeLegge II, Gents with No Cents
4: “In our time, the curse is monetary illiteracy, just as inability to read plain print was the curse of earlier centuries.”
Ezra Pound
5: “Geniuses and prophets do not usually excel in professional learning, and their originality, if any, is often due precisely to the fact that they do not.”
Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy

Wealth and money are two different things to some people. For me, wealth doesn't necessarily reflect financial prowess but having a lot of money does. Wealth is a more "holistic" view of a person's happiness. They can be wealthy with experiences of traveling, or perhaps they are wealthy in a life of accumulated education and knowledge. The definition of wealth is as unique as the people who possess it.

Money, to me, is the strength or buffer zone of someone's financial capital. Bill Gates once said that how rich someone is would be to test how long they could survive with the money they had saved. I wholeheartedly agree with this concept. Like all resources, control over its quantity depends not only on how much there is initially, but how long it takes to deplete it.

People earn money by work, for the most part. There are of course exceptions, but for you and I, we have to earn our money in whatever ways we can to ensure our survival and livelihood. In Australia, there are three types of people when it comes to monetary success.

The first are the losers. Harsh label perhaps, but it reflects their spending habits. The losers spend far more money than they earn - fancy house, car, clothes, the whole nine yards. This might occur because one may want to enjoy a personal sense of achievement or perhaps to impose onto others that they are "successful" in life - "keeping up with the Jones's" as it is commonly referred to. They take out loans from the bank or the people they're close to more frequently than other people.

The second group are the winners. These are the people who spend money only on things that will yield a profit. They are calculative people and it has paid them dividends. Any excess is cut and sometimes an outsider may view their financial decision-making as "stingy". While they win in the financial game, they are often viewed by outsiders as hoarders and ungenerous.

The last group are the people who spend within their means. Their salary may be low, but so are their spending habits. Some may be richer, but they can afford to spend a bit more. Regardless, what they make and what they spend are in harmony. They do not go into debt, but they're not swimming in bank notes. From what I've observed throughout my life, most people in Australia fit into this category.

Being conscious of one's spending habits is an important life lesson and one I'm still learning myself. As I am being exposed to new situations as I mature, I have to look at my spending with a more critical eye. But sometimes it's good to splurge. A celebration for hard work is deserved.

In cases like these, we can't be excessively calculative with our money. After a year of hard work, it is absolutely within reason to indulge in an amazing holiday to a place on the other side of the world. We have to respect our non-financial well-being too.

Ultimately, we do not want to be in a position of debt. It hurts our wallet and reinforces bad habits, but more importantly it can damage our relationships, especially if we have to resort to borrowing from people close to us. It reflects our eagerness to feed our egos instead of developing relationships that do not depend on money.

Monday, March 12, 2018

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

1: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
Gertrude Stein
2: “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
Winston Churchill
3: “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Paulo Coelho, Alchemist
4: “Never, never, never give in!”
Winston Churchill
5: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I was younger, I was naive not only to the world outside my school, but to the realities of life as well.

Back in elementary school, I had a dream where I would run my own car company. It was a wild dream and even then I knew it. But I liked cars (despite not being able to drive yet) so I felt that such a dream was entirely possible, provided I put in the effort. 

When I was in high school, my school participated in an international competition where teams of students were to design a car with 3d software, produce them out of balsa wood and race them against each other. My dream of running my own car company was still very much alive at this point in time, but my school already had an established team and it didn't look like they were looking for a new member. Despite this, I decided to start my own team with the intentions to rival my school's team akin to AFL's derbies or Holden vs Ford. I also thought that having extra competition would help both teams achieve new heights.

I was able to get two friends on board, but my plan fell through. I remember reading the manual for the 3d software I needed to learn, but it was all too complicated for me. It was the very basics and I couldn't find a way to make it work. Worst still, I didn’t seek help because I didn’t want to appear to be the leader that didn’t know what to do. I failed my team. I failed myself.

How was I going to run a car company when I wasn't able to even design a simple chassis on a computer program or swallow my pride to seek help?

As I've grown (and hopefully matured) over the years, I've learnt a lot about life. As a student, be it in elementary school or university, I would fall into the trap of thinking that I needed to know everything inside out, even if it was beyond the syllabus. I felt that it would be impressive to others and that I'd be rewarded for such initiative.

Indeed it did impress my teachers, but as I progressed through school into the higher years and onto university, such initiative became more and more unrealistic as there was simply too much information out there. It took me a while to understand that, and my grades suffered as I focused on areas that were never going to be examined.

Through the many failures I've experienced, I've learnt that we can't expect to be perfect or to always have the answers. In real life, bosses of giant companies that dominate the global market don't know everything. I used to think they did - why would they be the boss? Nowadays, I strongly believe that experience, ethics and empathy play a bigger role in our personal and professional lives. It's more important than raw knowledge alone.

It's been said that the secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times. From who I was to who I am now, I endorse this statement 110%.

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

1: “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
Horace Mann
2: “There are these amazing little seeds called compassion.  You should grow some.”
Richelle E. Goodrich
3: “It didn´t occur to me until later that there´s another truth, very simple: greed in a good cause is still greed.”
Stephen King, Wolves of the Calla
4: “I've purged myself of worldly goods; half my stuff is either being sold or going to charity. I need to go shopping.”
Christy Leigh Stewart
5: “Many love humanity only in order to forget God with a clear conscience.”
Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Our way of life since the beginning of mankind has continued to evolve. In the modern world of today, human innovation in technology and medicine are achieving incredible feats not only to extend or save lives, but to enrich them as well.

I need only to look at my phone and know that in a moment's notice, I can reconnect with an old friend. With my phone, I can watch the latest news, follow a celebrity or voice my opinions. It's a powerful device, but one I also believe has the power to take away the essence of living.

If we look back to the pre-internet and pre-mobile era, we realise that a lot of life we associate with today simply does not exist. Life was different then, and while I wasn't around during that time, I can envision a simpler day-to-day.

But as much as technology has grown, we are ultimately human. The human body, mind and soul hasn't changed in the last 50 years. We're the same as the earliest of modern mankind. Because of this, it's important to view humanity as the foundation that builds greatness and inspires storytelling.

The respect for all humans, realising that we're not all the same but rather that we're unique and yearn for understanding is what I firmly believe is my life's goal. Lending a hand may be a simple act to us, but for somebody else, it could change the course of their life. It's easy to forget the magnitude something small can create, akin to the butterfly effect.

Conversely, I can see the perspective of spending too much time in the interests of others is as much as a distraction as the modern technology around us, suppressing our opportunities to live a life we want. A life serving others is an incredible one, no doubt, but we can't forget that we are individuals too, and that we need to find time for ourselves instead of depending on others for our happiness.

I personally enjoy time alone, but as with all things in life, we need balance. We ought to live a life where we are alert to opportunities around us so that we can grow and develop as well as help others along the way.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

1: “A good traveler leaves no tracks. Good speech lacks fault-finding.”
Lao Tzu
2: “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
Judith Thurman
3: “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ”
Lin Yutang
4: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway
5: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

Now that I'm in my mid-twenties, I feel like I've gained some good insight surrounding various facets of life. When I was younger I looked at many things in absolutes. All teachers had the answer no matter what the question. Having more friends was good. Nobody liked school and anyone who did was a "weirdo". Likewise, outcomes are all people care about. Nothing else matters.

Ernest Hemingway once said that "it is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end". At school I would always hear teachers say that the journey was more important than its destination. I understood that thought even as a child, but now I can wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.

Almost, if not all, aspects of life are relative. Teachers don't always have the answer. None of us do. Having more friends do not directly translate to greater happiness. Some people thoroughly enjoy school. There's nothing wrong with that.

The journey of life is mixed bag of success, regret, joy and sadness. But despite its random nature, a challenging journey can give our lives depth, meaning and satisfaction as long as we continue to hustle. Everything can be spun in a positive way, given we have the strength to do so. The journey teaches us the power of experiences both positive and negative. 

I remember studying for a particularly important exam while studying pharmacy. Failing this exam would result in my repeating the whole unit the following year. I was studying with a friend around that time and we would bounce encouragement off each other, supporting ourselves whenever we felt weak. I remember thinking, "even if I fail this exam, I won't have failed myself because I've formed a incredible friendship along the way".

Conversely, I can see the perspective where the destination is more valuable than the journey. It comes as no surprise that ultimately that's what employers, family and friends care about. No one can put a value on somebody's personal experiences. It has no weight to them because they were probably out of the picture completely. In that light, I think it's absolutely rational to put emphasis on results or outcomes.

The truth is, both are important. But if we can focus on the journey, we can also expect great results. I passed that exam in the end. Sure, I passed because I was able to answer questions correctly, but what helped me succeed was power of friendship, which is ultimately the most important thing I learnt.

"Sometimes you have to get sicker before you can get better"

1: “A little chocolate a day keeps the doctor at bay”
Marcia Carrington
2: “Sometimes you have to get sicker before you can get better.”
Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
3: “Save the Planet...Buy Organic”
Nancy Philips
4: “To wish a healthy man to die is the wish from a mind of sickness. To wish an ailing man to die is the wish of the ambitious.”
Roman Payne
5: “the body is wiser than its inhabitants. the body is the soul. the body is god’s messenger.”
Erica Jong

Jeannette Walls once said "sometimes you have to get sicker before you can get better". I can identify with this notion, through my personal experiences. To me, those words translate to the idea that one must make sacrifices or suffer hardships in the pursuit of anything great. That might be at work, school or even in relationships. The hardest or most challenging endeavours are often the most rewarding and inspirational. At the same time, I can see the point of view that chasing overly ambitious dreams can take away from life and enjoying the present moment.

When I was in high school, we'd sometimes be introduced to an inspirational speaker. I remember clearly in the 9th grade when I was on placement that aimed to enhance cultural, creative and practical learning. One time we had a speaker who was of Indigenous background. I recall being moved by how he was able to overcome the struggles of being a minority and a social outcast amongst those around him to achieve his personal goals.

It's through facing harsh realities and coming to terms with our unique situations that help us find a reason to break out of apathy and stasis. "The night is darkest before the dawn" is one of my favorite quotes from Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and I feel it is relevant in this context. As we take on every challenge head on and avoid procrastination, we realise that we are capable of much more than we anticipated.

I reflect back on what I've been through and the difficulties I've tackled personally. I remember the countless failures when I played tennis and becoming frustrated at serving the ball correctly. Over the years through continued practice, my serve has improved vastly although I certainly wouldn't consider it competitive! That wasn't never my goal however.

On the flip side, I've also observed the brutality of intense dream-chasing where someone can be entirely consumed from being so focused on a goal they may never achieve. It's important to know one's limits. I remember a friend who would speak of big plans they had - dreams so wild and fantastic that it would make anyone question its plausibility. With goals set so high, failure is almost guaranteed. It can take away from life experiences and drain the soul.

But ultimately that is the price of success. We need to be smart about our goal-setting for it has to be both awesome and achievable. If there's a meaning to life, perhaps it's to learn not only about the world around us, but its inhabitants too. If our goals divide us from people or reduce the number of opportunities for new experiences, we should reevaluate them for life, in my eyes, isn't truly being lived.