My first Blog after my last operation

If they want you to stay on the operation table for more than a few hours, they have to inject some pretty hard stuff down your blood stream and it makes you a little crazy… and this won’t stop after just a few days… it my case… over a month. This “craziness” is especially concentrated in the words you choose and what come into your mind… that’s what happened to me… so no more posting for some times.

Now I believe that I’m almost back to normal… that is, MY normal and not yourselves… so that why I’m seeing just how all this is going to go… Capiche? :)

We all have some 86 billion of neurons in our brain and when a few of those are still dozing, the rest won’t care one way of another… and so it seemed to me. A few weeks ago, I’d want to eat some raisins and asked my wife for some blueberries or I’d want some more coffee and asked her for some more water… lucky for me… her brain is now intact… :)

Why did I have this operation? The nice Doc told me that if I did not have it… my life may not have stayed with me for a very long time. That was not something I could accept… except to tell her that I was ready… and so it came.

That nice Doc also told me that, some twenty days after this operation, she would want to meet me again. And so I went… and while I was there, I also met this other Doc who told me that he would do some operation in the bottom of my spine… and Danielle (my love) asked him when he’s do it. He told her that he’s asked his secretary and that she would answer me.

The next day, she called me and told me that it would be this coming Monday, September 23rd. I said, “OK, I’ll be right here.”

So, in just a little over one week… it’s back to the hospital again… but for now, I’m a little more confident… I know that after this new operation… I’ll also be a little dizzy… so probably no more Blogging from me for a long time…

But unless nothing happens in that operation… I’ll be here… and for some times… :)

Enter Shamou’s forums here.

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The pursuit of quality – A guiding star

We are the sum total of our contributions; as a tree is judged by its fruits, a man’s worth is determined by what he brings to the public place. It’s not what we have or what we think that really matter; it’s what we do and contribute that says it all. Each of us was endowed at birth with the seed of greatness, the mission to exploit it and the tools to do so. Failing to recognize this fact and act on in is to demean the purpose of life and the reason we were born.

Daring to look at what we are really capable of accomplishing is scary. It could be compared to a man gazing at Mount Everest before the climb. Deep down he knows that he can make the climb and that it would be the ultimate thing that he could ever do; but he is filled with doubts and uncertainty. The mountain is not the real challenge; fear is. Most of us are not as afraid to die as we are to live fully and completely; a fact that we keep buried in the deep recess of our soul.

How could we face the fact that we would rather live a boring and meaningless life rather than risk failure in the greatest adventure of all? We can’t; so we close our eyes to our amazing potential, impose limitations that we don’t really have; and dutifully follow the parade like good little pawns… letting outside circumstance direct the course of our life; taking responsibility for nothing and acting as victims. It’s enough to make the angels weep.

It does not have to be like that. It is in our power to stand up; put the fear behind us; take ownership of our resources and talents, make them grow, stronger; and eventually become all that we can be so that we can contribute more and in doing so fulfill our manifest destiny.

How could we do that?

How could we become stronger, more affected by what becomes in front of us and less tied down with fear? It can be done by pursuing our most lofty inspirations… at all times. By pursuing the grandest and largest opportunities that we can see ahead of us… and thus becoming all that we can be… and do all that we could ever do.

That’s the reason we were placed in this little Planet. We were placed here to do something that had never been done before… to expand and grow what has never been done and live our life to the fullest. That’s our manifest destiny… and why we were placed here in the first place.

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How to Eliminate Frustration

Frustration won’t kill you; but, sometimes, it can make you wish you were dead. Of course I’m exaggerating here but it is a fact that frustration can be the number one enthusiasm killer and has probably been the cause or reason why some of the most beautiful dreams never saw the light of day. To arrive at one millimeter from success and see it all crumble under our eyes is devastating; no question about it.

A recent incident will illustrate the case in point. This young friend of mine was gung ho on making piles of money with his Blogs. He set up the site, learned how to promote it, and wrote beautiful articles. He got rave reviews and a good readership, but after two months, not a red cent came in. He was floored; great apathy bordering on depression ensued, he stopped writing, and gave up. That’s the classic pattern.

We are confident that success is just around the corner, things look just great – when, whang-bang, we face an impasse, get a major setback or the whole thing crumbles… and we’re flat on our proverbial butt… wondering how this could have happened. It happened because we placed value on something over which we have no control.

My friend, the Blogger, placed the value of his work on monetary profits. The amount of money that he would be making was the measure by which the scale of his success would be evaluated. He got nothing, which through lack of logic told him that “he” was worthless. No wonder he was floored, kaput… out for the nine counts.

Life is a game

Life is a game, and the best part is that we get to choose the game and set-up the rules. Of course this concept is not universally accepted. There are those of us who would rather see themselves as victims of circumstances over which they have no control. That’s OK too. No problem with that. The game that we choose to play is big enough and flexible enough to include others’ opinions.

The difference between us and them is that it is in our power to set-up the rule by which we play and they obviously don’t. And if we’re smart enough to understand that it’s a game that we’re playing, we’re smart enough to make rules that will make sure that we don’t lose.

In the case of our young Blogger, had he known that it was a game that we was playing and that he could set-up the rules, things would have ended much differently. Instead of making money the yardstick by which success or failure was determined, he probably would have chosen personal growth as the yardstick. There is no doubt that in these intensive two months of learning, planning and writing he grew more than in the whole year preceding this episode. His was a fantastic success… too bad that he will never realize it.

Predicting the future

The best way of setting ourselves for frustration is to try to predict the future. We can never be certain what it will hold; and even in the best possible situations, something can and will go wrong and we’ll be left with a sour taste in our mouth. The wise man will take what he gets without judging it and will run with it… that’s what winners do and that’s why they are winners in the first place.

Out of the worst possible situations come the most amazing opportunities. For years, my greatest fear and preoccupation was that I could one day lose everything that I owned and be left dead broke. Then one day it happened. Best thing that ever happened to me. It made me see what being penniless was like and I found that it was no big deal. Less than a year later, I was back on top and the fear of losing it all never bothered me again. That was priceless.

We create our frustrations

Ultimately we created our frustrations; no one else did… that may be the reason they sting so much. Our expectations were not met and we were left with this feeling of frustration; and now that we have it, what do we do about it?

Frustration is an emotionally charged emotion; not healthy at all – somehow, all this pent up energy needs an outlet; and one that is not destructive or damaging in any shape and form… getting angry and bursting a blood vessel is not a viable option and so is breaking dishes. At first, physical exercises, anything that demands physical energy is the best antidote. It will burn all the excess hormones that are poisoning the bloodstream and get our mind occupied on something else.

Once this initial shock is over, putting our thoughts in the written form is the next best thing that we can do. It will provide an outlet for whatever residual bad feelings are left. Putting our thoughts down in the written word is a great way of venting and finding clarity. Next to an expensive psychologist, it’s the best option.

Frustration is part of life; but it can be prevented or managed. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems at first… and in five years, we’ll be laughing about it. So, why take it so seriously in the fist place?

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Are you a classic or a romantic – And why it matters

There are two ways of seeing the world; the classic and romantic modes. Most people are either one or the other; it’s a matter of personal inclination; and it should be noted that one is not superior to the other; they are simply different, that’s all. Ideally, we should try to take both views… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s have the definitions first.

The classic view

One who takes a classic view of the world could be said to view it as an engineer would. He is not attracted by immediate appearance, but by underlying structures. If he saw a new shining Ferrari, the motor would hold his immediate attention over the look and design of the car; he would be more interested in the alloys that went into the making of the car than in the paint that covered it.

The classic is mostly governed by logic and the laws of physics. Precision and workability is valued over esthetic and appearance. In his book, law and order rule over traditions and decorum. He has little time for patience or frivolities but will read volumes on the qualities and characteristics of nuts and bolts. As far as he is concerned, the quality of anything is determined by its effectiveness and nothing else.

We traditionally saw the classic mind in men, but more and more this situation is changing. The fact that fewer women were seen as being classically inclined was mainly due to the social climate rather than being an inherent condition. Vestiges of this line of thinking remain but they are being extinguished by more liberal views. The classic mind is neither male or female; it is straightforward, concise and effective.

The romantic view

The romantic view has to do with elegance and beauty; what pleases the senses and has an odor of refinement. Esthetic has precedence over practicality and value is determined by immediate appearance. The romantic does not know or care how many valves that sexy Ferrari has and he truly does not even wants to know what a valve does… but if the colors of the inside of the car does not match the outside… it’s a definite no go.

A romantic view is more frivolous, attracted to what pleases rather than what works; fascinated with appearance and bored with technicalities. Artists of all kinds are held in high esteem while Scientists are seen as “ghastingly” boring. This distaste for technology is more than skin deep… if anything goes wrong with a machine, the romantic will take it as a personal insult; machines have no feelings, will not respond to feelings therefore should not be allowed to exist. Not very logic, but that’s how they feel about it.

The problem

Here we have people operating on two different modes, classic and romantic. Each has its own way of looking at the world which leads to different conclusions – not very conclusive to adequate communications. That in itself causes some problems, but there is more. When people think exclusively in one mode or the other there is a large part of the thinking process that is left out.

The engineer who is exclusively a classical thinker is just as lost when it comes to the finer things in life as is the romantic artist who is devoid of logic and cannot cope with the orderly world of machines. A bridge is required to unite these two worlds. This bridge can be found in the pursuit of quality because the essence of quality contains both the classic and romantic views.

A perfect example would be the Ferrari that we mentioned before. The inherent quality of the car makes it both a feat of classical thinking and romantic thinking. The car could not have been designed, built or even fully appreciated without using the classic and romantic modes of thinking; quality built the bridge that united these two modes.

Quality engineering becomes art; and quality art, by the harmony of its parts, becomes engineering; both are united by quality. Quality transcends both the classic and romantic modes of seeing the world and makes them one; not an easy concept to grasp but an essential one for personal actualization.

The solution

Opening to both ways of seeing the world, the classic and romantic modes, is done by making quality the pivot point of one’s existence. When this is done, everything that we think, say and do, revolve around that pivotal point, is connected and radiates from that point… quality is at the center and everything else follow. When quality reigns, technology becomes art; and art, through harmony and symmetry, takes on its rightful place in the rational world. The circle in then complete… and so are we.

Note: This article is based on the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I have tried to be as faithful as possible to the spirit of the book but some discrepancies may have occurred for which I apologize.

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State of mind and results

Years ago, when you bought something from a Japanese manufacturer that required to be assembled, the instruction guide that came with the product started with the following words: “The assemblage procedure for Japanese products starts with peace of mind.” Nobody paid the least bit of attention to these words… and we paid the price; we paid it with frustration, some choice words, a few angry calls to the store and probably an item that never worked properly.

Anyone who’s ever bought a piece of furniture, some sport equipment or machine that needed some “putting together” knows what I’m talking about. The instructions look easy enough on paper… we’re in a hurry to put it all together, we rush; screw-up… and wonder why these idiots could not come up with better instructions. Actually, there was nothing wrong with the instructions; it stated, in black and white: “The process of assemblage starts with peace of mind” but we did not listen.

The reason that we did not listen is that we tend to look at almost anything that we do with a practical eye and overlook the deeper metaphysical aspect; that which has to do with whatever goes on beyond logic. Logic, by itself, can only go so far; it can only define what it is that we want to do and tell us the “how” it can be accomplished. That’s only a small part of the whole package; and it does not contain the deciding factor for the quality of the finished product.

Logic without metaphysics is cold, unfeeling, has no sense of esthetic or of what is good. What logic does not have is what comes from our higher self; that area of ourselves that belongs to metaphysics. Much has been said about metaphysics, nothing was ever proven scientifically but deductive observations show that it works; that is has a tangible effect on what we do and that we are incomplete without it.

The restraints of a short article make it impossible to go into details about metaphysics; but for anyone interested in pursuing the subject, I would recommend; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Out of necessity, this article will stick to the essential and basic.

Why do we need peace of mind?

Why should peace of mind be essential to putting together the parts of a barbecue, a bicycle, writing an article or doing anything else that we might decide to do? To answer this question adequately, we have to look at a flaw in Western culture that began in Ancient Greece when a division was created between subject and object; that is, a division between what a man is and what a man does.

To separate what a man is from what a man does is to fail to see the entire picture. Our work is an extension of who we are; therefore, the two are inseparable. And according to this logic, the quality of the state of mind that we are in will determine the quality of whatever it is that we are working on. Something that we know instinctively; but tend to ignore most of the time.

With peace of mind, we are one with what we do; we will perform at the highest possible level; and that tranquility will be extended to the finished product. Any form of irritability, anxiousness or tension will also be transferred to the work at hand and the results will show it. The construct that we worked on might be acceptable and workable but it will be below standards. That’s how we can differentiate between the work of a skilled artisan and that of a human chimpanzee.

Before anything there was the Word

From the humblest to the most exalted task, everything that we do is a creation; those creations define us as defined them; they and we, are one. Scary but true. We know a three by its fruits, and a man by his labor. To think otherwise is to demean ourselves and our work; to accept this truism is to forever change the way that we see work. How could we be bored when we are creating? How could we be bored when we are expressing ourselves?

The idiom says, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” What it should also say is that, “Mental preparation should precede work.” It takes only a few moments to clear the mind, but these instants are crucial; they are needed to connect completely with what we are about to do. Every single thing that we do pushes forward the edifice that we are building and that is commonly called, our life… the sum total of which is our existence. Does it not deserve everything that we have to offer?

We rush through life… most of the time only half-conscious… we act like Zombies… then wonder where it all went… so we despair… create dramas to fight the boredom… when it’s not enough, we use pills and booze to reach the appropriate state of unconsciousness. It does not have to be this way. It is in our power to lead a meaningful life by doing meaningful work… something that we knew all along, but need to be reminded once-in-a-while. Hope that these words will do it for you!

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The Pursuit of Quality – Why & How

It should be obvious that if we want to get anywhere in life, we must have a destination in mind to give structure and organization to our life’s work. This has traditionally been done by setting long term objectives. It’s a process that has merits but falls short of meeting life’s primal purpose which is personal growth.

If the objective that we are working on overshadows the importance of self-growth, and relegates it to second place, we are missing out on the true purpose of life which is evolution. We were placed on this little Planet with a Grand Design – to grow, evolve and become all that we can be. Failing to understand this, is failing to understand the nature of life itself.

If we go back, millions of years, at the time when inert matter became living organisms, we see that this living matter was already infused with the compulsion to develop and grow. Without this essential urge, evolution would not have been possible and nothing would have changed. We are the product of the impulse to develop and grow and this trait still inhabits every one of the billions of cells that constitute our bodies.

Life’s force is growth. It’s one of Nature’s most fundamental law, and so long as this law is observed we are on an ascending path; the moment it fails for some reasons, the cycle of life reverse itself and we’re moving back to our origin… matter that will foster a new and different life. That’s how it’s been since the dawn of times and that’s how it will remain for eons to come. Either we expand and grow or get on the downward slope of decay and annihilation… the eternal cycle of life.

Fostering growth

Whether we are aware of it or not, life teaches… but it’s done in a haphazard way; it is slow and only covers the bare essential; certainly not acceptable for most of us. The pursuit of long term goals and objectives also provides the seeds for personal growth; but, again, there is little control as far as the growth process is concerned and many essential elements to personal development are left untouched.

If we are really serious about personal growth, the ideal and most effective way of doing it is through the pursuit of quality… in all its means, shapes and forms. Quality is not easy to define but easy to see; it has to do with whatever is superior to whatever is comparable. To put it succinctly, it’s whatever is best. By pursuing quality, in whatever endeavor we are in, we demand the very best of ourselves and can’t fail to grow in the process.

Quality is the result of caring and it is pursued through the same feeling, caring. Whatever is done with care and in the pursuit of quality touches the soul, expands the mind and transforms the individual. When quality becomes the central pivot of our life, standards are raised, growth ensues and horizons expand. Likes attract likes and we are molded by our environment. Pursuing quality creates quality; which in turn touches us in kind.

Having a sense of what’s good, or quality, is something that we are born with but it is also something that we can develop; the more we are subjected to it, the more we appreciate it and the more discerning we get to be. Quality can be found all around us; in a well turned sentence, in a simple design, as in the rich tone of an Italian car or the melody of a single flute. To the trained senses, it’s unmistakable, it touches the soul.

Our pursuit of quality has a deadly enemy; and that’s our compulsion to rush things. It happens when we no longer care and want to move on to what seems more interesting. This syndrome is an Occidental cultural flaw; not really a lack of personal discipline but a lack of understanding of the true nature of time. Time takes on the quality that we give it; by itself, it’s totally neutral; time is not the cause of boredom, we are.

One of the reasons that we get bored is that, culturally, we tend to separate who we are from what we do; something that is not as evident in Eastern culture; and something that we would do well to emulate. When we are one with what we are doing, nothing is inconsequential, nothing is insignificant; everything is as important as anything else; and that’s when quality steps in.

Life was a gift but it came with a price tag; we were expected to expand and grow so that we could contribute to the advancement of the grand scheme of things. It’s nature’s way and fundamental design. We were meant to grow which is another way of saying that we were meant to acquire more quality. How can that best be done? The ideal way of doing it is by having quality as a central pivot in our or life… by being dedicated to search for quality; by striving to produce quality and to accept nothing less from us.

Quality can be introduced to; and color every facets of our life. We can have quality thoughts, quality productivity as we can be mentally, emotionally and spiritually quality motivated. It’s the path to personal growth, the reason we exists and Nature’s design for us. We only have one life to live; may as well give it our all and live it with quality.

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Winning in the game of life

Life is a game and just as in any other games, some people are constant winners and others would lose even if the opponent did not show up. There are many reasons for this; it’s obvious that we can’t win if we are saturated with apathy, don’t have any self-confidence or simply don’t give it our best. On the other hand, there are those of us who really try, do their best yet never really make it.

Blaming our failures on bad luck, hard times or destiny simply does not hold water. We are ultimately responsible for whatever happens to us. Looking at outside circumstances for our lack of success is a waste of time. Our only chance of turning things around is by looking inward, finding what’s not working and making the changes needed. That’s what winners did and that’s why they end up in the winning circle most of the time.

In game playing, of any kind, one item stands head-and-shoulders in importance above all others; and that is attitude. Attitude is more important than talent, level of intelligence, circumstances or any other factors. He who has the best attitude has a head-start and the winner’s edge. You don’t have to be the best there is to win; but you certainly need the best attitude.

Attitude is a multi-facet faculty; the most obvious are being positive and confident but there are other aspects of attitude that are not so well known. Attitude also has to do with…

Choosing what you get

Life will hand us situations or conditions that we did not expect or wanted. When it happens, most people will rebel, get upset, angry or react in some other negative ways. None of these reactions serve a practical purpose – you already have this thing in your life – it’s too late to reject it. What’s done is in the past, and no one can change the past; so choose what you got, accept it and own it.

You get home and find that the house has burned down and you’ve lost everything you had. If you’re mature enough to live consciously, you have to decide how you will react. You could follow the natural course of action; see yourself as a victim, decry high and low this stroke of back luck or… take the stance that this is an opportunity in disguise… that it’s a chance to start over; rebuild what you had, make it even better than it was and learn some invaluable lessons in the process.

We are always given the choice as to how we will react to any situation; we can respond in a negative and destructive way as we can take the high road and respond in a positive and constructive manner. We can choose what we get, make it our own and work with it or we can see ourselves as victims, lament our back luck and waste valuable time and energy. It’s a question of attitude.

Seeing the glass half-full

Seeing the glass half-full is also known as, “having an attitude of gratitude.” We can’t be counting our blessings and be depressed at the same time. We always get more of whatever it is that we are focusing on; abundance or starvation… happiness or misery… good or bad luck. We get what we manifest; it a law of nature that no one can escape any more than we can escape the law of gravity.

By seeing the glass half-full and having an attitude of gratitude we build a reservoir of good feelings that can be used to smooth over rough patches that we may encounter. Tears don’t fall in the Garden of Eden and flowers don’t grow in the desert. The brain will perpetuate the habitual feelings that we feed it. That, too, is a question of attitude.

The service mindset

Seek to serve and the world is your oyster; give people what they want and need and you’ll be king. If you are good enough to give people what they want; they’ll give you everything that we ever wanted. Nobody cares about what you need or want; they are concerned about their own needs. Steve Jobs was not interested in making money; he wanted to produce and offer the very best that technology could offer… and money came in in droves.

Mark Zuckerberg did not care about money; to paraphrase his words, he wanted to build a neat social site… he became the youngest billionaire. You want to succeed? Find a need and fill it. Money is pursued (and made) in a roundabout way; it’s done by producing value and not by seeking it for selfish interests. When Walt Disney was asked for the secret of his success, he replied, “Create a product that is so good that your customers will not only come back again and again but will also bring their friends and relatives with them.” That, again, is a matter of attitude.

Attitude can make or break you

There is only one thing in this game of life over which we have complete control and that’s our attitude. Luckily for us, it’s also the most important factor in leading a happy, fulfilling and successful life. The difference between winning and losing is attitude; that’s where it’s all played-out… that’s where it all starts and ends. If you’re not having all the success you believe you deserve, you don’t have to go any further than between your two ears to find the problem; that’s where your attitude lies and it’s what stands behind it all.

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Is living in the fast lane really living?

For the last thirty minutes, I had been staring at a virgin page of the Microsoft Word application on the computer; trying to find a subject for another article. I was getting more and more impatient by the seconds… I was challenging my brain, but nothing concrete would come to mind; and the feeling that I was wasting time was growing stronger and stronger.

That’s when it hit me. Where was the rush? Why was I pushing myself? Why was I having the feeling that I was wasting time? I had forgotten that every moment that is given us is as important as the next; and that rushing to get to the next moment in our life IS the perfect way to waste time. A minute not fully lived in its present state is a minute wasted. To live fully and completely is to take what the present gives us and experience it fully… without judgment on its value or importance.

My favorite quote from Shakespeare is, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” A smart dude that William. By using only eleven words in that short sentence, he was able to show us what is wrong with our life. We make judgment where none is necessary and spoil great moments of our life. It is in our power to validate every minutes of our life; but, too often, we fail to use this option.

Waiting for the bus is as important as riding the bus as it is to do whatever we plan to do when we get to our destination. Life is a successive moments of now where none of these moments is least important than the next. Failing to understand and apply this fundamental axiom is failing to live fully.

Quality, or the Buddha, can be found anywhere

Peace and serenity can be found while waiting for a bus as it can be found on the battlefield or waiting for inspiration to come. Life gives us two choices: we can CHOSE to see quality and fulfillment in whatever it is that we are doing; or we can choose to be the victim of outside influences. Refusing to accept the concept that we are given these two choices is negating the gift of free will that was so gracefully given us.

To grow and mature is to regain our childhood sense of wonder for our physical and intellectual world. A child will derive as much pleasure from the box that carried the new toy that he was given as with the toy itself. A wise man will get as much pleasure in patiently crafting an article that he wishes to write as he will in accepting the praises (or even rejections) that his article will provoke.

The present moment is every bit as important as the next that will come along; no matter what… so why do we rush it? The answer is simple; we rush it because we are bored and we are bored because we no longer care for whatever it is that we are doing. To slowdown and really live and experience every moment starts with caring.

Whatever we do with care automatically becomes important and what is important has our full attention and interest. It’s a self-stroking cycle. This fact was brought home to me by way of one of my favorite book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. The book was highly recommended to me by my son. His exact words were, “That’s a “must read” book, Dad. Your education cannot be complete without it.” That happened some three decades ago.

I got the book, rush through it and got nothing out of it – except losing some valuable time. Time past and I decided to read it again; this time, a bit slower and “got” the fact that it was an important book and that it deserved to be understood. More time past, I got a little wiser and decided to get down and really study the book… no matter how long it would take and how many efforts would be required. Best decision I ever made. It changed my life.

Some of the information I got from the book were priceless, but the lesson it taught me was crucial. It made me understand that rushing through life is the best way of wasting valuable time. You can’t enjoy what you rush and if you don’t enjoy, you don’t really live. All there is in life is the, “here and now” and if you don’t fully experience the “here and now” you are partially unconscious therefore not fully living.

Life is the greatest gift and possession we have; and the fabric of life is time. How we spend that time is determinant in the quality of life. It’s not what we do that really matters; it’s how we do it that counts. When totally involved, totally caring and striving for quality, we are living fully and completely. When rushing and impatient to get to the next item in our life, we are partially unconscious and therefore not fully alive. It took me a full decade to learn this… but I don’t regret one moment of it. The experience was more than worth it.

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Our ego – The little trouble maker!

One of the differences between us and the family Pup is the fact that we have an ego and he does not… and it’s for the same reason that we have tons of problems and he does not. Well, I might me exaggerating a bit, but only slightly. Our ego has the knack of making problems for us; he may not be our worst enemy but it certainly looks as if he was trying to do just that.

Just in case you are wondering, the ego is that little voice inside your head that you hear when you feel offended for one reason or another; that same little voice that wants you to keep up with the Jones, drive the latest model car, spend a fortune on a suit you’ll only wear twice (a marriage and a funeral) will turn you into an ax-murderer if your better half cheats on you… and on… and on… and on…

In one word, your ego wants you to be king of the hill and head-rooster in the chicken pen; and if it doesn’t happen, you break out in hives, blow a casket or both. Let’s face it, the ego is a tyrant that won’t let you have any peace if he feels that you are being humiliated or slighted in any way, shape or form. It could be said that the ego is the short fuse on the big petard that a single spark could set off.

If you don’t recognize yourself (and your ego) in that picture it’s because you have this little mechanism in your brain that is very effective in hiding your own truths from yourself. The way that this little mechanism works is by sublimating (or transforming) certain feelings into more socially acceptable forms. A killing rage could be transformed into some psycho-somatic condition, into depression or into some self-destructive behavior. The ego is behind it all; but it is not recognized as such.

Understanding the ego

At the base of it all, the ego’s main function is to keep us (and itself) alive. And the only way that he knows how to do that is by having us repeat the same patterns over and over again and never changing those patterns; and by always insisting that we are always right and others wrong. To understand the ego, first we have to understand why and how he wants us to maintain the same patterns and why he wants us to be right all the time.

Patterns and the bank of references

Everything that we ever experienced, since the day that we were born, is carefully registered in our brain. This great collection of information forms a bank of reference that the brain uses to guide us in everything that we do. The ways this mechanism works is very simple; when we meet a challenge (tiny or large) successfully, the brain takes note of how we did it, and for the remainder of our life, when that same challenge (or situation) comes up, we will react in the same exact way.

What this all means is the fact that we are little automatons; perfectly programmed to react automatically to any stimulus that comes up. We go through life repeating over and over again; stimulus, response; stimulus, response – ad nauseam! That’s a fact… but a fact that your ego might not let you accept. The very idea that we go through life as programmed little robots goes against previously held beliefs; so the ego will automatically reject it… and like good little robots, we’ll accept his decision… cute; don’t you think?

The ego and the need to be always right

As we said before, the ego’s prime function is to keep us (and itself) alive. The way that he does that is by insisting that we keep our robotic behavior and keep on meeting any situation that comes up with the same pattern that we used before. That pattern was successful in keeping us alive in the past and changing it might present a risk that the ego does not want us to take. That’s why we resist new concepts or notions that are contrary to our previously held beliefs.

How to escape

The ego is an absolute lord and master and will resist successfully any frontal attacks. We cannot dictate to the ego but we can fool him. That is done by giving him the space necessary to express himself freely and with no opposition… and once he has done that, he will leave us free to act and react in any way we choose. The principle behind that is simple; what we resist, persist… but what we allow to be, simply dissipates and goes away.

Recognizing the fact that our ego is lord and master is a feat unto itself. It goes against previously held beliefs therefore; as good little robots, we reject it; as we tend to reject any notions contrary to our previously held beliefs. Luckily, we have this tool at our disposal that allows us to circumvent this situation. And that’s by creating space to allow the ego to express itself without confronting it. When we’ve done that, the ego gets out of the way and leaves us free to act in any way we so desire; and we are free to stop being docile little robots.

It is wise to remember that what we resist, persist… and what we allow to be will soon dissipate and go away. The way we gain total control… is by giving up trying to control. It may not sound logical; but it certainly works. Try it and see.

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Silly games that people play

Us humans get bored very easily so we set-up those little mind games to keep us occupied. Some of those games are great and entertaining; but unfortunately there are those who greatly detract from the quality of life rather than enhancing it. To complicate matters, we are completely unaware that we are playing those silly and toxic games… and even worse, some of us will deny vehemently being involved in such shenanigans.

Unfortunately, many times, we are our own worst enemy. Man was not given an Owner Manual at birth; so many of us live our life haphazardly and without any reliable guidelines. No wonder there are so many lives that simply don’t work. Living a rewarding and fulfilling life is a science and not a fluke. What we don’t know can and does hurt us; that’s why we should try to learn as much as possible about the sciences of successful living.

To begin with that exploration, let us look at some of the toxic games that we may be unconsciously playing.

The blame game

So many people play the blame game that it should be known as a National sport. Any unfortunate incident or unwanted occurrence happens and we have to find something or someone to blame it on. We have to make certain that we are not the responsible one; we are the poor helpless victim who was acted upon through no fault of his own. By shedding responsibility for what happens to us, we get the feeling that we were right and someone or something else was wrong; but that’s all we get… an empty and worthless feeling.

There’s a very expensive price to pay for that shallow feeling; if we are a victim and not the cause of what happened, there is nothing we can do to change or improve the situation. If I get into a heated argument with someone and blame the other person for it, there is little that I can do to bring closure. On the other hand, if I’m big enough to accept responsibility for the situation, it is in my power to change my behavior and take whatever step necessary to end the stalemate.

By giving up ownership of a condition or situation, we become victims; and victims are powerless; they can’t do anything constructive to repair what has happened. The Captain of a ship will always take responsibility for what happened on his ship; the buck stops at his front door. If we want to be the Master of our fate, we must do the same; stop the blame game and take responsibility for our life; all of it, with no exception. It takes maturity to do that – but it works.

The “insist on being right” game

Each of us has this little tyrant and trouble-maker inside of us and it’s called the Ego; we did not ask for it but got it anyway. The Ego has only one function and that’s to keep us alive. And the way that he does that is by insisting that we are always right; no matter what. As far as he is concerned, if we are right, we live… if we are wrong, we die. There’s nothing logical about that; but that’s the way the Ego sees it. That’s the reason we play the, “insist on being right” game.

Our truth is our truth and someone else’s truth is his own. No one has a monopoly on truth; and anyone should be allowed to believe whatever they want. If we don’t want to play the, “I’m always right” game, all we have to do is to give the other person the space to be as he is; and give us the space to be as we are. By doing that, the game ends and we are free to go on our merry way.

The time priority game

According certain moments more importance and less to others is also a game that we play. It seems like the natural thing to do; that’s why most people do it… but it does not have to be this way. The successive moments of life are like the links of a chain; each is of equal importance; if we chose to have it so. What is life if not a successive moments of now? Why should one be more important than the other?

Zen teaches us that any moment is as important as the next; no matter what. The instant that we can accept that, our life is transformed. Everything gets interesting, we are no longer bored and life is perfect as it is. Even Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad but our thinking makes it so.”

With total acceptance, every moment becomes valid, interesting and worthy of being lived to the fullest. The only reason that we value some moments less than others is that we stop caring about what we are doing. When that happens, aliveness wanes and we go partially unconscious. Time is one of the most important assets that we have; let’s not play game and waste any.

What is mind game playing?

Mind game playing is above all an effort to escape from reality such as it is; and most of these games are so deeply entrenched in our culture that it seems almost impossible to escape them. Yet, if we are truly serious about leading a successful and fulfilling life, we cannot afford to be caught in the entanglement that those games bring with them. Conscious living demand self-discipline and some efforts… but the price to pay is much less than the cost of a wasted life.

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If you want your life to work

Imagine owning a ten year old car, it’s hard on gas, the brakes don’t work too well and the motor is sluggish; you ask your mechanic friend what the problem could be; in return, he ask you, “When was the last time you had the car checked?” You say, “About five years ago.” With a smile he replies, “That’s what’s wrong with your car.”

Humans are a little bit like cars, we need regular checkups. Here I’m not only talking about physical checkups, but also mental maintenance. We are creature of habits and we keep on running the same patterns. Once in a while, some defective patterns creep in; we pay no attention, and soon our life starts to be somewhat sluggish… it simply does not run as smoothly and as effectively as it should.

Running away from reality might be convenient short term; but on a long time basis, small dysfunctional patterns and situations pile up and become major drawbacks. One of those conditions that are often left unattended and becomes major obstacle to living an effective life is unfinished business. Something comes up; we don’t have a simple, quick and effective solution and we let it slide.

A new pattern is set up and a new way of handling problems is implemented; we push problems to the back of our mind and try to ignore them. Unsolved conditions, situations and problems don’t magically disappear; they stay in the background and suck up the energy required to keep them repressed and away from our reality.

Kill the dragon while it’s little

Problems and unfinished business are like dragons; they grow over time. Wishing them away will not work; playing the victims and saying it’s not our fault therefore we can’t do anything about them, won’t work either. Facing problems takes courage and is never easy. Once in a while, a problem will simply vanish by itself and we feel a great sense of release; and take a mental note of the incident… if it happened one, it can happen again.

The next time a problem comes up; we remember what happened last time (the problem went away by itself) so we cross our fingers and hope it will happen again. We’re a little bit like the experimental rat in the maze who finds cheese in slot number four. The next time the technician places the rat in the maze, he’ll run to slot number four… but after a few tries, if he doesn’t find any cheese in that slot, he’ll simply stop going there.

We, as human, are a bit different. If we find cheese in slot number four, for the rest of our life, we’ll keep running to slot number four whether there is cheese of not. One of our problem disappears on its own; and for the rest of our life, we’ll keep thinking that it will happen again. Life does not work that way. Coincidences happen but they don’t become the rule.

Settling arguments

Arguments create resentment, complicate life and should be resolved as soon as possible. They are needless burdens, don’t serve any practical purpose and cast shadows on relationships; so they should be put to permanent rest for the good of all. There only one way that this can be done and that is NOT by winning or losing the argument.

No one ever wins an argument; period. One side may concede but will be of the same opinion still; the person who concedes is only buying the peace, and nothing else. The only way that an argument can be settled is by allowing both sides the space necessary to maintain their respective opinions. The very moment that you really give space to someone to believe what they want to believe and think what they want to think, that person’s thinking no longer has any effect on you.

Another person’s opinion can only have an effect on you when you oppose that opinion. If a three year old child tells you that he hates you; it won’t have any effect on you because you are big enough to give the child the space to think what he wants to think… why should it be different with an adult?

When I’m having this conversation, the question always comes up: “But what if the other person IS wrong?” Well, if the other person is wrong, give him the space to be wrong… and remind yourself of this basic fact; if you had lived the other person’s life, that’s exactly how you would be thinking. From his point of view, that’s his reality and so long as he does not decide to change, it’s going to be his reality. Feel free to give your opinion; but make dang sure that he understands that it’s only your opinion and that he does not have to accept it.

One of our most inner primal urge is to be right all the time. That’s what our ego is all about. In the ego’s mode of thinking, if you’re right, you win and you live; if you’re wrong, you lose and die. Of course this is not rational thinking but the ego has never been accused of being rational. The ego simply is and does not care how you feel about him; he simply does his job the way that he sees fit. As they say, “Nothing personal; it’s just business” as far as the ego is concerned.

You want your life to work?

Remember that we are a little bit like cars. We need regular checkups and fix problems as soon as they come up… and we also have to clear up misunderstandings. Conscious and effective living demand some work and discipline from our part but the results are well worth it.

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Too smart for your own good?

You would think that the smarter you are the better your chances to succeed in life. Wrong. A good percentage of the members of the Mensa Organization (the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world) can’t even get a job and are on welfare. It is a well-known fact that there is no correlation between academic success and success in later year. William James Sidis had an IQ estimated between 250-300, broke the record by entering Harvard University when he was only eleven years old; and died broke in his early fifties without ever doing anything worthwhile.

The world is filled with geniuses who never did anything, never accomplished anything and were nothing but burdens on society. Being smart and bright means squat if all that brain-power is not handled properly. We don’t get rewarded for how much we know or how bright we are; we get rewarded for the contributions that we make and the value we provide.

Very smart people are fascinated with mind games. They love to explore the intricacies of complex theories; they are amazed at what their brain can do and how easy it is for them to find their way to the heart of some of the more obscure propositions. On the other hand, they have little patience for simple, day to day, preoccupations. Nietzsche has no secret for them but don’t ask them to fix a flat tire.

Another trait of a superior intellect is the exaggerated need to leave their personal imprint on everything that they do. Duplicating what has already been done, even if it proved to be successful, is not good enough. They have to reinvent the wheel and rediscover fire. They’re not after efficiency and expediency; they seek personal expression and recognition.

All this should not be seen as an indictment against intelligence or superior brain power. If you were one of the lucky recipients of such a gift, bully for you and the more power to you; on the other hand, if you happen to be one of us with average intelligence, read on… and find out just why you should not see yourself as being disadvantaged by the fact that you cannot brag about genius status.

Easier to connect with peers

It is a fact that we get along better with our peer group. We talk the same language, we are interested in the same subjects, we resonate better and identify more; so it’s easier to connect and bond. Part of Sidis (the smartest man who ever lived) problem is that almost no one knew what he was talking about. He was so far ahead of everyone else that he simply could not communicate effectively.

To succeed, in almost any sphere of activities, it’s imperative that we “connect” with people. Something that the average Joe can do a lot better than Albert Einstein. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is an underlying sense of mistrust when we are dealing with people who don’t entertain the same language that we do. By being average, intelligence-wise, we find a much larger pool that we can relate with and by the same token, are able to bond and connect with.

Got a head start

It’s no secret that for those of us who were not blessed with a superior IQ, school was a challenging time. If we wanted to get good grades and a great education, we had to work hard. Nothing came easy; at least not if we were serious about education. We learned to work hard while still quite young and that’s a training that we never forget.

Our years in school taught us the value of work, perseverance and determination. Three attributes that go a long way toward achieving success in almost any endeavors. A good work ethic, like most good character traits, is best learned at a tender age; those are the formative years when most of the hardwiring is done in the brain. Hard worker in school; hard worker in life.

Sylvester Stallone; great role model

The man who gave us Rocky is a fantastic model of an average guy who was able to achieve success of cataclysmic proportion in spite of major handicaps. His story is about faith in his ability to eventually breakthrough and strike it big in a town where talents are dime a dozen and where physical appearance is king. None of the major studios would have anything to do with him; yet he kept on knocking on doors and coming back after innumerable rejections.

Lucky for him, he did not know enough to understand that he could not make it… so he just went ahead and achieved the impossible. Had he been the cerebral type, nobody would have heard of him; Rocky would not be a part of the American legend and millions would have missed some wonderful entertainment.

It’s not how bright or how smart we are the really counts. What really matters is the faith we have in our ability, our determination and willingness to work for what we want – along with understanding that we, and no one else, can predict how far we will go if we are willing to pay the price.

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A case for the reasonable doubt

The more insecure a person is; the more certainty it needs. You will note that I said, the more “certainty” is needed; and never mentioned anything about the truth. There is an ocean of difference between certainty and truth; yet they are often confounded; as a matter of fact, certainty is the archenemy of truth.

The reason for that is simple, truths change all the time. What was the truth yesterday is no longer valid; something that an open mind will notice but won’t reach a dogmatic spirit. The truth is found by questioning everything; even questioning the questions we ask.

There are four stages that most of us go through: (1) we begin by knowing almost nothing and knowing that we know nothing, (2) as teenagers, we know next to nothing and believe that we know everything, (3) then turning adults, we know some things but start to get a glimpse that maybe there is a lot more to know, (4) and finally, as we reach maturity, we understand that we know very little and that what we believe that we know might not be so after all.

The quest to be right all the time has a lot to do with the ego. By its very nature, the ego abhor being wrong; it’s not a question of pride, but a question of survival. One of the ego’s prime functions is to keep us alive and to accomplish this mission, it has only one technique, and that’s by maintaining the status quo. As far as the ego is concerned, what he’s done so far is obviously working because we are still alive, and changing would put the life in jeopardy.

That being said, we can recognize that acknowledging the fact that we may be wrong and agree to entertain a reasonable doubt is not something that comes naturally and would be easy to do; especially when we feel insecure and vulnerable. Conversely, it could be the times when we have to question our beliefs the most.

The beliefs that we hold are like a GPS that we use to navigate the paths of life. If the information held in that guiding mechanism is wrong, it is evident that we’ll get lost and encounter all kinds of problems and difficulties. For that reason, when we have the feeling that we’re not experiencing tangible progress or not improving in our current condition, it’s time to get back to the basics and start questioning our fundamental beliefs.

The most important of those fundamental beliefs are those we have about the way we perceive ourselves to be. We always behave as we see ourselves; and most of what we believe about ourselves was decided at a very tender age while we were still too young to make enlightened decisions. We simply accepted suggestions from parents, siblings, friends and peers; and most people still allows these beliefs to run their lives. It’s an abomination.

A belief, any belief, is simply a notion supported be evidences, and nothing else… so it should be treated as such… but it is far from being the case for most people. We hold our beliefs as sacred and use them as guiding posts; no wonders there are so many dysfunctional lives. A boy at age three plays throw and catch the ball with his dad, misses a few catches and is told by his father that he’s lousy at sports; and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For the rest of his life, this boy won’t ever be good at sports.

That’s how beliefs work. Someone makes a suggestion, we accept it; and for the rest of our life we are literally hypnotized by that suggestion and keep on acting on something that was probably incorrect to start with. That’s unconscious living at its worst. When a belief is disempowering it should certainly be questioned, weighed and examined to finally be replaced with a more empowering one.

How to change a belief

The most efficient way to change or eliminate a belief is by questioning it. The more we question it, the more flaws we’ll find and the shakier the belief will become. Remember that a belief is only a notion supported by evidences and if the evidences prove to be false or not entirely reliable, the belief will simply disappear to be replaced with a more accurate or empowering belief.

I believe that no one will dispute the importance of an open mind; and what is an open mind if not one that is always prepared to observe any subject from a new perspective and with a different eye. It is evident that this cannot be done without entertaining a certain doubt… because that small doubt is the key to open the door that leads to a more empowering truth.

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What to do when we’re in a lousy mood and want to change it

It happens to the best of us, for some reasons, we get stuck in a negative mindset and can’t seem to get rid of it. It could be that we get stressed-out, feel a sensation of gloom-and-doom, feel tired for no reasons or simply have bothersome or negative feelings; we want to get rid of the feelings and noting seems to work. The first thing that should be noted here is that, whatever we resist persists.

The more we resist a feeling or a mood, the more we fight it, the stronger it gets and the more affected we become. Logic won’t work either. We can’t “talk” ourselves out of a bad mood; mantras have very limited effect. It seems as if the mind is already full with the negative junk and it has no space for anything new or different.

There is a process that does work and only takes a few minutes to implement. I’ve used it numerous times and it never failed me. Here is how it goes:

1. Stop resisting

As we have already said, what we resist persist. The more resistance we offer the stronger the feeling gets. So the process starts by simply allowing whatever is going on in the mind to pursue its course without trying to stop it of changing it. Just let it be as is.

2. Identify what’s going on

a. The emotion

First, we have to identify the emotion that’s bothering us; simply saying that we feel rotten, negative or bad is not enough. What exactly is it that we feel: depressed, frustrated, angry, resentful, stressed-out, anxious, bored, nervous or whatever. Before we can get rid of something, we must know what it is that we no longer want. So by identifying exactly the nature of our problem, we know exactly what it is that we want to be free off.

b. The physicality

Each emotion has its own physical counterpart. The question, “How do I feel physically?” must be asked and pinpointed. See if there is muscular tension and where. Any burning sensation? Headache? Shortness of breath? Tightening in in the stomach? Cramp in the legs or buttock? Take a minute to assess how the body is reacting to the unwanted emotion; and what it feels like. Make a mental not of it, and then just let it be.

Don’t try to relax or make the pain (if there is any) go away. That’s all part of the same package; when the unwanted emotion or mood goes away, so will the physical aspects.

3. Give the condition the place to be as it is

Take consciousness of what is going on. Don’t fight it and don’t try to ignore it or make it go away. Just give whatever is going on the permission to exist. Simply give it space to be just as it is. An emotion is like a flame; it needs something to feed on and when it stops getting it, it dies. Unwanted emotions feed on the resistance that we give it; without that resistance, it cannot live or go on existing.

Usually, the entire process takes less than five minutes, and as if per magic, the problem simply disappears. The process is so simple that it’s very hard to believe that it works… until we’ve experienced it firsthand. The natural impulse, when we don’t feel as good as we believe we should, is to fight it; try to make it go away somehow. Worst possible thing that we could do.

The second worst possible thing is to analyze our feelings. We put on our Freud hat and start anal-lysing. But the time we’ve reached a definitive conclusion, we’ve got Alzheimer and no longer care. It is next to impossible to find the origin of unwanted emotions; so what we do is pick something that could possibly be the cause and declare high and loud that it is the cause. It might and it might not; but all that is irrelevant.

What we want is for unwanted feelings to go away. The very best way to do that is by identifying the feeling; note how it affects us physically; don’t fight it and don’t try to make it go away; and finally, give it the space it needs to exist. Minutes after doing this, we’re back to our old self… whatever that old self is.

Note: This process is taught at the Landmark Education Seminars; what used to be called, EST (Erhard Seminar Training) and then morphed into Landmark Seminars before getting the name that it is now using.

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The unintentional victim syndrome

Taking full responsibility for our life, all of it, is not easy. For a few days, I’ve been reading about taking personal responsibility, therefore I’ve been more conscious of my own behavior, and can’t believe how often I’ve fallen off the wagon and took on the victim role. Getting rid of our old disempowering patterns is not easy; they’re on full automatic mode and will show their ugly face as soon as our guard is down.

One of my disempowering patterns is what I call, “The unintentional victim syndrome.” The fact is that playing the victim game is always unintentional; but by giving my own disempowering pattern a sexy title, it makes me feel a little less guilty; it’s the ego again crying for recognition. Having to soothe the ego is another one of my bad habits; but that’s material for another article. Now, back to our regular programming…

The more I observe how easily we fall prey to the victim syndrome, the more I see how large a role it plays in our life. Yesterday, I was looking at some personal statistics and found that they were not as good as expected; it made me feel a bit “down.” That’s when I realized that I was playing the victim role with my statistics; I was blaming them for the mood that I was in. Statistics have no power; they can’t make us feel up or down, they’re just numbers without power – how we feel after looking at those numbers is something that we do to ourselves.

We’re not the victim, we are the creator of that mood; we did it to ourselves. Someone is rude to us and we get upset; we blame the person who was rude to us for feeling upset. That person had nothing to do with it; we’re the one who decided (albeit unconsciously) to get upset. Words only have the meaning that we give them; it’s in our power to choose to be upset or not. The bottom line is, we always have a choice; we can take responsibility for what happens to us or we can take the role of victim.

What it’s like to be a victim

A victim is powerless; it can only react in a negative way to whatever happens. It can fight back, seek retribution, get angry or sad; or vent the hard feelings in an unproductive way. Not the hallmark of someone who’s in control and takes full responsibility for his life. That’s the state that most people live their entire life in; refusing to put their pants on and taking control of their sentiments and their life.

As a victim, we don’t act, we react; we don’t “create” our life, we are at the effect of it. One of the greatest gifts humans were given is the ability to choose how we react to whatever happens to us. A faculty that we often forget we have. Instead, we create this prison where we are at the mercy of outside influences. Someone barks and we jump. It does not have to be this way; we were given the choice.

A major cause of the victim syndrome

Even though we are not really aware of it, we have to have the feeling that we are always right; we can do no wrong. If a dispute or misunderstanding starts, the other guy caused it; we were right, he was wrong. If we get blamed for anything; we had a good reason to act as we did; we were right, the other guy was wrong. Our ego always insists that we are right; so if we were right all along and get blamed for anything, what does that make us? A victim, of course.

This absolute need to be right all the time is one of the main reasons we take on the victim’s stance – and the worst part of it all is that we are totally unaware of what we are doing it. I am fully aware of the fact that this is a difficult concept to grasp. One of the ways that it can be done is through deep introspection; by taking a good hard look at ourselves and the motives behind our behavior.

I had the good fortune to attend what is now called, Landmark Education Seminars, where we spent two whole weekends (12 hours each day) exploring these concepts. It changed my life. Should you be interested to learn more about the subject and cannot take the seminar, I suggest that you read, The Book of EST by Luke Rhinehart. It will take you minute by minute through the whole seminar and the full interaction between the trainer and the trainees. If you do, it will be an experience that you’ll never forget. It might just change your life, as it did mine.

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The Complacency Challenge & Personal Power

As any bodybuilder knows, the only way to improve on your muscle mass is by challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone. A lesson that applies very well to self-improvement. The major problem with self-improvement is not learning the ins-and-outs of the sciences of success; the problem is getting ourselves to take action and implementing what we have learned.

What three decades in self-improvement has taught me is that, most of us know what to do but simply don’t take action and do it. Knowledge without action is moot. Learning is the key that opens the door to success and a better life but action is the vehicle that will carry us through the threshold and onto the Promised Land. It only takes one word to cover the most common obstacle to personal achievements and that word is procrastination.

A dream is only a dream until action has been taken; no one is ever rewarded for intention; yet people keep on trying to “get” without any “doing.” That is probably what lies behind the phenomenal success of the book, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne which sold 19 million copies in 46 countries. The book seems to promise results without concrete action; what is exactly what most people are looking for. While they’re at it, may as well look for a stairway to the moon and a square circle.

It is not my intention here to demean Intension-Manifestation in any way. It works and I know it does. It’s a faith based philosophy that certainly has merits; but by itself, it is not enough. We can Manifest until the cows come home; but if it’s not accompanied with the appropriate action, nothing will happen. What is needed to get the things that we want is Personal Power.

Personal Power

Personal Power is the ability to take action when action is required. That, in the realm of the success sciences, is by far the most difficult thing to do. That’s the reason people procrastinate, find excuses and pretexts; wait for just the right time, and finally just sit there waiting. The most fantastic idea with the best laid plan won’t get anywhere if action is not taken.

How then do we get Personal Power or the ability to take action? It is done by exercising and challenging our action faculty; it is done by getting out of our comfort zone and actually tackling ever increasing challenges. That’s how they train world class athletes; that’s how they train Navy Seals and it also what every mover and shaker of this world went through.

In other words, you get Personal Power by taking action on smaller short term projects that are just a bit out of your comfort zone; by getting yourself to do things that you would not otherwise do. It might be something as benign as submitting one of your article to one of the online site who publishes guest authors; you could start taking classes to improve one of your skills or even decide to talk to at least one stranger every day. The thing is to get yourself to do things that are demanding but you don’t really have to do.

You start small and always increase the size of the challenge. In less than a year, you’ll be amazed at how much you have improved your Personal Power or ability to take action. When successes start piling up; and Personal Power increases, you start seeing yourself in a new light, the self-image changes. The timid and hesitant person has morphed into a more confident and decisive one. Challenges are no longer sources of anxiety but welcomed new adventures.

The big hurdle that has to be overcome to spring into the arena of personal success and achievement is the complacency or self-satisfied syndrome. Without sufficient hunger, nothing gets done. Napoleon Hill calls this hunger, a burning desire. When the desire is intense enough, Personal Power is no longer a problem; we no longer have to push to get things done; we are drawn by the desire.

Conclusion

Unless we take action, nothing gets done and nothing is accomplished. To take action, we need Personal Power. Personal Power is like a muscle; it gets stronger by overcoming challenges. Like a bodybuilder, we start light and increase the workload. That’s how we get to be the type of person that we always wanted to be; someone with Personal Power.

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Great advices I’ve been given over the years

Over the years, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting some very wise and successful people; get the feel of how they think, what they believe in, and what made them the happy and successful people that they were. One of those beliefs is that we are ultimately responsible for what happens in our lives; all of it. When we really get that, our life begins to change.

Take responsibility for your life

There is a very popular game that people play when some unfortunate incident happens in their life; it called: “The blame game” The reason for that is that, when we are displeased, we have to find someone (or something) to vent our hard feelings on. Plus, we have to feel that we were right all along and that we were only a poor helpless victim; someone “did it” to us. This little game might make us feel somewhat better for a short period of times, but there’s a heavy price tag attached to it.

When we are not responsible, it means that we’re not in control and when we’re not in control, there’s very little that we can do about any situation. If we want to be in control of our life; be the Captain of our ship and the Master of our fate, we must be willing to take responsibility for what happens in our life; all of it.

Accept people as they are

We can’t turn a banana into an apple and we can’t change a person from what the person is into what we want that person to be. If there is to be a change, it will have to come from the person concerned and not from anyone else. It is in our power to adapt to others but we can’t force others to adapt to us. Trying to control others does not come from a position of strength but from a position of weakness.

Strong people can always adapt; weak personalities can’t. The reason for that is simple; strong people have more resources while weak people have few, if any, other options than the one that they are using. Strong people will agree with this statement; weak people won’t. Real strength comes from a capacity to adapt. Something that a weaker personality does not have; a strong person can give space to others to be what they are, a weak person can’t.

Keep an open mind

Truths change. What was true yesterday may no longer be the truth today; and it’s not because we’ve had certain beliefs for a long time that they are true. Scientists, wise and smart people always keep an open mind. When we’re not getting the results that we want, one of the smart thing to do is to review some of our fundamentals beliefs; some of those date from the time we were three or four years old; they could very well be the ones who are holding us back. The most vulnerable of these beliefs are the ones we have about ourselves; they define what we can and what we cannot do. By changing one of those beliefs, an entire life can be changed.

Keep your commitments

One of the major reasons that some people’s lives are total messes is that they don’t keep their commitments. They say they’re going to do something; they promise they will – and at the first little inconvenience they meet – poof goes the commitment. Nobody but nobody can get anywhere in life it they can’t keep their commitments. A commitment is a solemn promise you make to yourself; you said you would, and no excuse or pretext are acceptable.

By keeping your commitment, you get to see yourself as a reliable and trustworthy person; someone you can depend on. If you don’t, you’re just another slacker who won’t ever get anywhere in life. Remember, winners have what losers don’t because winners do what losers won’t.

Be a people person

If you can connect and bond with people, life will be rather easy and you’ll be able to get almost anything you ever wanted. If you can’t; you’re screwed. People hold in their hands everything you ever wanted and will be more than happy to give you those things if they feel connected; if they don’t, you’re just another distraction. If you don’t know how to get people to like you, get the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It has everything you need to know to become a people person and turn your life around.

Keep improving yourself

Life placed me in a position where I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know an appreciable number of people who could fill the best description of what a success is. They came from different backgrounds, had lived vastly different experiences and culture; but they had one thing in common; each and every one of them were avid adepts of the self-improvement disciplines.

None that I knew would let a day go by without some regiment of self-improvement. They would spend an average of thirty minutes a day reading some motivational material, listening to CDs or looking at videos on the subject. Most of them were journaling to keep records of their progress and do some introspection. No matter how busy they were, they always found time to go through their daily ritual of motivation and inspiration.

They knew and understood the importance of self-improvement. They knew that it was not a matter of a seminar once a year or a book every six months. Just like our body, our mind has to be fed every day if we want it to grow and be as sharp as it could be. The quality of our life depends on it. And if I could impart you with just one piece of advice it would be to work on yourself every day of your life. If you take me up on that suggestion, it will be one of the best decisions you will have taken in your life.

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Reasons your life is not working

Want to make someone really angry? Point blank, just ask him or her why their life is not working. Then I suggest that you step back a few feet because you’re about to get an earful to the tune of, “How dare you suggest that my life don’t work; I’ll let you know that…” And the whole litany of reasons why they just know that their life is working beautifully will gush forward in an angry tone. The truth is that most people’s life is not working.

If you don’t believe that, just read some statistics on alcoholism, prescriptions drugs for depression and anxiety, drug addiction, divorces, stress related diseases, gambling, promiscuity et al… The problem is that admitting that our life does not work would be admitting that somehow we were wrong; something that the ego will resist tooth and nails. Most of us go through life with the, “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude. We may not see it this way; but that’s how it is.

Some basic facts

Life is very much like a river; and we’re in our little raft right in the middle of it. That river of life does not care what we believe and think; but it gives us a choice to follow the current and use it to get where we want to go or fight that current because we insist on having things our way. The reason we insist on having things our way is that it makes us right; and the ego always insist on being right.

This fundamental desire to be right all the time, or fight the current, can best be understood by using examples. We resist and fight the current when: we won’t accept something that we cannot change, we won’t let go of hate and resentment, we keep on insisting on having our way even when we know it’s impossible, we try to change people, don’t accept what happened in the past; and most important, insist that life should be the way that we think it should be rather than accepting it as it is.

One of the problems that we have is that we keep running the same patterns over and over; even when we clearly see that they don’t work. Something unpleasant happens; you head for the fridge and eat, feel better for a while; something else happens; you eat again, repeat the same pattern over and over again; you get fat, hate yourself for it… and then you see yourself as a victim. It’s not your fault that you’re eating all the time – your life stinks – that’s the culprit. Idiot! You did it to yourself!

The river of life goes on; not the least bit affected with what we want or feel. We can choose to follow the current; and as they say, “Go with the flow” or try to resist it. The thing is, that current is much stronger than we are and will still be there a long time after our strength (or will) is gone and can no longer fight it. That’s not a secret; everyone knows this; we know it but refuse to see it because we are blinded with our need to have things our way – or be right all the time.

Some people reading these lines will get angry at me. “How dare him, saying that my life doesn’t work. My life works and I’m a reasonable person; I don’t try to be right all the time.” I know the pattern. I’ve seen it hundreds of time. One of the hardest things to do is to look squarely at our life and admit that, maybe, just maybe, we may have been wrong all along. It’s extremely hard to do, but the day it happens, we are totally transformed. Everything in our life is still the same; but we see it, and feel it in a completely different light.

Mastery, in any activity, is giving up control and simply going with the flow. We see it in birds in flight, people riding a bicycle or skiers going downhill – as we see it in life. Perfection happens when we simply give up resistance and just go with the flow. Of course, stuff that we don’t like will happen; the river of life is just getting a little turbulent; that’s all. Give it the space to be turbulent and go on your merry way; and soon, there will be peace again. Fight it and you’re just making more troubles for yourself.

What we allow to be, let us be. What we resist persists. It’s simple as that. We’re on the river of life going downhill. We can accept and enjoy the ride such as it is, and live fully as we can fight it tooth and nails and have a miserable time. The river (life) does not care one way or another; it has no feelings. Bitching against it will serve no purpose; it will only destroy any chances at happiness that we may have.

The lessons exposed in this article may take a long time before they can be accepted as it can be done in a flash. The past does not equate the future. We don’t have to drive the car by looking in the rearview mirror. What happened is gone forever and we have no further need for it. We can decide to change, adopt some new and more empowering patterns and enjoy the rest of our little trip on the Planet. The choice is ours; that is the beautiful part of being humans.

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How to handle criticism and rejection

When we consider that the fear of rejection is stronger than the sexual urge; it says volume. Even if it was decades ago, I can recall as if it was yesterday the times when, as a teenager, I desperately wanted to talk to girls my age but could not get myself to do it because of the fear of rejection. Had I been given the choice between a broken leg and a rejection from one of those cute girls, I would gladly have chosen the fracture.

Dale Carnegie, the famous author of, How to Win Friends and Influence People, confided that, as a young man, he wrote a letter to an important man; and in an effort to impress the man, wrote at the bottom of the page, “DBNR” – something that very important persons did in those days and which stood for, “Dictated but not read.” The receiver of this letter did not appreciate being treated this way by a young man and returned the letter with the annotation, “Young man, your bad manners are only exceeded by your insolence.”

Carnegie said that, to his great shame, all he could recall about that man, some thirty years later when he heard that he had passed away, was the hurt that this letter had caused him. Rejection (and criticism) is serious business; when not handled properly, it’s a direct affront to the ego that can leave permanent scars. It does not have to be this way. There are ways that we can take the stings out of rejections and criticisms; here are some of them:

Buddha’s wisdom

A young monk felt hurt because he had been insulted by someone and asked Buddha what he could do about it. The Buddha replied that the insult was a gift that someone wanted to give him and that we are always free to accept or refuse a gift; and if he, the monk, refused to accept this insult/gift, the giver would have to keep it for himself.

The next time someone is unkind to you and says something that hurts you; remember that you are always free to accept or refuse this “gift.” Words only have the meanings that we give them; and if we decide that they are gifts and refuse them, it’s our prerogative, our choice. This may sound so simple as to be absurd; but always remember that the greatest truths are always the simplest ones. If it’s good enough for the Buddha; it is certainly good enough for you and I.

Take no glory; take no shame

By the time it takes to read this article, the most powerful man in the world, Barack Obama, will have been insulted more times than you and I during our whole lifetime. If words could kill, the man would be dead; yet, while he’s fully aware of what’s going on, it does not faze him a bit. The reason for that is simple; he, like all other prominent men and women, learned that you should take no glory and take no shame (or no praise or insults) if you want to keep your position without losing your sanity.

To a lesser extent, we can use this lesson. Praises and insults are two sides of the same coin; if we chose to accept one, we must be willing to accept the other; and when you stop and really think about it, neither is good for you. Praise can make you feel good and warm for a moment but it also puts you on a pedestal with an inflated reputation to protect; which makes you overly cautious and can only serve to “cramp” your style.

Praise and insults (glory and shame) are simply other people’s opinions that says more about who they are than it says about us, and should be taken as such. We, and we alone, know what’s in our heart and where we come from; second guessing by anyone else is of no practical value and should be ignored as such. In the long run, we can only be better and feel better by doing so.

Seeing objections in a positive way

The greater the place we occupy on the stage of the world, the more people will find objections to what we stand for; it goes with the territory. The size of the objections that we encounter is a pretty good yardstick by which we can measure the pertinence of our views, of the work we do and of our overall contribution. If the family pup is the only one who barks at you; you “ain’t” doing much and don’t matter much.

The world of opinions is so divided that getting more than fifty percent approval is considered a success. Seeking total approval is a utopian notion; and no one is a prophet in his own country. Criticism and rejections are parts of the grand-scheme of things; just like rain and sunshine. Making a federal case out of it won’t change anything. If you happen to see yourself at the receiving end of negative comments, it only means that you are actually doing something that matters; and not much else.

Developing a thick skin

Unless one becomes sufficiently immunized against objections and criticisms, any chance of acceding to a position of prominence is nil and void. Leaders, and anyone else who matters, become targets for opposition, criticisms and even insults. That’s the dark side of the coin; and one of the prices of outstanding success. The good news is that human nature has provided for this contingency.

It does not take long, when one is under fire, to develop a thick skin and become immune to personal rejections of almost any kind. It comes at the point where you understand that the only approval that you really need is the one you get from the person you see in the mirror when shaving (or putting on lipstick) in the morning. When it happens, you’ve made the grade and you’re ready to be all that you can be.

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Self-improvement – The basics

Professionals, in any discipline, know the importance of the basics. They are the foundations upon which the whole edifice is built; if the basics are mastered, everything else fall into place naturally and effortlessly. Virtuosos always start rehearsing with the basics; when grandmasters are asked for advice, they expound on the basics. How we master the basics determines our degree of proficiency in any discipline; including self-improvement.

Before we get into the basics of self-improvement, first we have to determine what the discipline is all about. It is evident that most people get into SI to make more money. That’s unfortunate because money is a byproduct of SI but not its main purpose. What SI is all about is helping people become whole and complete so that they can lead more effective and fulfilling lives.

It is evident that money is part of the picture. But, if money making is your only objective, I can tell you how to make money fast by using only three words. They are: cheat, rob and lie. That will get you all the money you want very fast and the program will even include a mandatory retirement with all expenses paid. They call it, prison. SI is about a lot more than money even if the bible of SI aficionados is called, Think and Grow Rich.

To be fair to Napoleon Hill, who wrote the book, we have to mention that he says the strategies he gives to acquire wealth can be applicable to anything else that we may wish to acquire. Here we must emphasize that there is nothing wrong with wanting money but it’s not the path to happiness; becoming whole and complete is – and it’s also an excellent way to acquire wealth if that’s an important part of what you desire.

THE BASICS

Attitude

Basically, it could be said that SI is mainly about attitude. It’s about the point of view that we take regarding the events in our life, our present situation and condition; along with how we envision the future. Attitude colors everything and gives it different meanings; the same situation, viewed from a different perspective, can empower and contribute positively as it can cast a dark shadow and be demoralizing.

The right attitude does not mean hiding our head in the sand and denying reality. It’s not about living in a fantasy land where everything is sunny and rosy. It’s about striking a balance that will work in our favor and looking at the brighter side of the picture. It’s about focusing on the solutions and not the consequences. It’s about seeing the glass half full and not half empty.

Kaizen or sharpening the ax

Following attitude the next basic in self-improvement is known as Kaizen. It’s is a Japanese word that stands for, “improvement” or “change for the better” and refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement. The word cannot be translated in English so the acronym, CANI (Constant And Never-ending Improvement) is used instead.

The story of Kaizen is quite interesting and bears noting. After the Second World War, Japan was left completely ruined and devastated. General Dwight Eisenhower, who was in charge of reconstruction, called upon Dr. Edwards Deming, an expert on efficiency, to advise Japanese leaders on how they could best improve their situation.

Deming instructed the leaders that they should implant a philosophy where everyone would make the commitment to improve each facet of their life every day. In less than a decade, Japan turned into one of the leading economies of the world. If such a simple principle can so drastically change an entire country, imagine what it could do for you.

Kaizen is above all a mindset. It’s the desire to improve. With that mindset, everything that we do, every experience that we have become a learning and growing process. And, that is what self-improvement is mostly about. An experience woodchopper will always sharpen the ax before starting to work. In our own way, we should do the same. Seek to be as sharp as possible so that we can be as effective, in every aspects of our life, as we possibly could be.

Sustainability

What good is anything if we can’t depend on it? Or, to put it another way, what good would all the work done on self-improvement be if it did not come to the rescue in difficult times; when we need it the most? Fortunately, SI includes a technique, or fail-safe method, to cushion the hard bumps of life; it’s called, “Having an attitude of gratitude.”

You see, states of mind tend to follow Newton’s Law of Motion which essentially says that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Moods or states of mind tend to follow that law. When we are feeling good, we tend to keep on feeling good unless a considerable reversal of fortune (figuratively speaking) happens. And, the better we feel, the more we tend to keep on feeling good, no matter what.

Of all the technique known to feel good, one is way superior to all the other, and that’s, “Having an attitude of gratitude.” We can’t feel really grateful and be depressed at the same time. These two opposite feelings simply can’t exist simultaneously. So, if we keep on feeling grateful for all the bounties that have been given us, we build a strong layer of resistance against anything unfortunate that we may have to go through.

The basics, simplified

The best way of hardwiring a concept in our mind is to reduce it to its most common denominator. In the case of the basics of self-improvement it would be: (1) keeping a positive attitude, (2) having a personal growth mindset, (3) and maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Have this synopsis tattooed on your mind where it remains ever present and you’ll be amazed at how life can be wonderful.

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