If you find yourself troubled with ego problems, read this, then read it 10 months later

What you are getting into: 861 words, 5mins read

I wrote this to and for myself. Hope you like it.

Dear Zen,

Photo via Unsplash Ludomil Sawicki

Who do you spend the most time with?

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn

You know that quote.

For most people, it’s coworkers and family. Maybe it’s friends. Maybe it’s the members from your social group or community group.

Take stock of the 5 people. Be honest with yourself, Zen.

Are they energy vampires? Or are they energy enablers? Energy vampires are people who leave you drained even if you may have a good time with them. Energy enablers are people who no matter what they say or do, just having their mere presence is sufficient to make you feel good. They of course, are fun to hangout with and you should already have close relationships with them.

Say goodbye to energy vampires no matter how hard is it. Say hello to energy enablers, again and again.

How do you react if someone else’s idea is better than yours

Do you:

  1. React negatively
  2. Feel that your identity is threatened and get defensive
  3. Let it slide and silently blacklist the person
  4. Ask questions about the alternate idea
  5. Listen intently and identify logical arguments
  6. Question your own assumptions

Can you accept being wrong?

Do you fall into the trap of associating the ideas you have with your identity?

Will you ever change your mind?

What firmed up your beliefs in the first place?

Now to the most important question: Do you often disagree with your top five people? If yes, why? If no, why?

When you have ego, you disregard alternate opinions (or facts) and seek out confirmation bias

Egoistical people seek out validation that their behaviour, ideas, work, are the greatest. Who’s gonna praise them? Minions and sheep. Do you know anyone who is egoistical and yet actively seeks out feedback, and doesn’t get defensive when not validated?

Accepting alternate versions of opinions is hard. Accepting alternate versions of facts is even harder. It’s particularly poignant that many people are unable to discern between opinions and facts. Don’t be one of them.

To make it even worse, they mistaken alternatives as a challenge to their identity, their ideas, their work. Rather than putting their ego aside to revaluate their work, work that is painstakingly crafted, they choose to turn constructive (hopefully solicited) comments to shit and defend them till death.

This is where good ideas go to die. This is where the new ways of thinking never get to see the light. This is how egomanics miss opportunities because they can’t control their own ego and emotions.

Don’t be that guy, never.

Not everything is about display of power, people who are behind the scenes have power too

Now you might be thinking: “If I accede to opinions every now and then, how am I going to show em who’s boss? Who will listen to me if I’m always the one listening?

In the exceptional book 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, particularly Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker – seem dumber than your mark, talks about the art of asserting your power gracefully. In Chinese folklore, often eunuchs have the unseen power. They know the secrets of the King, the ins and outs, the behaviour of the King. Thus holding a tremendous amount of power on the state affairs.

Eunuchs are looked down because they are castrated. In the olden days being castrated is equivalent to committing social suicide. However, eunuchs are able to level their playing field by playing the sucker, ultimately convincing the King to make decisions favourable to themselves.

Even if it’s about power, letting go of your ego (temporarily) is part of the long game

What do you want in 10 years time? Will standing by your ego serve the goal? Or will it be derailed by your ego-driven reaction? Don’t mistake entitlement for righteousness. Most times, keeping your mouth shut and letting others win is the best policy, especially when you are not the one with power. One may feel morally right on a particular belief, but feeling entitled to defend the beliefs, only to cause detrimental consequences is another thing.

Bringing it all together

Do you have healthy discussions with the top 5 people you spend the most time with? Do you consider their alternate viewpoints, or their viewpoints are often the same as yours? When they have alternate viewpoints, do you react in a negative or positive manner?

The best case scenario is surrounding yourself with 5 people who will listen to you, yet giving you their firm alternate opinions, they also won’t hesitate to challenge your assumptions, and you won’t get butthurt in the process.

If each time you are going to feel personally attacked for every innocuous comment, you are going to have a bad time.

Go long, just let it go.

Now go back and look at the picture at the top, once you let it go, the fragmented mirror will return back to normal.

Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #6

What you are getting into: 894 words, 5mins read

Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.

Photo via Pixabay

Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or that day after.” Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was — what difference could it make? Now recognise that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.

Contemplation of death. Should we even do it? I first came across the idea of contemplating death while reading Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fxck where he quoted Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death. There are two premise in The Denial of Death:

  1. “Because we’re able to conceptualise alternate versions of reality, we are also the only animal capable of imagining a reality without ourselves in it.” AKA death terror or existentialism;
  2. We have two selves. 1) Physical self — one that eats, sleeps, snores, and shitz. 2) Conceptual self — our identity, or how we see ourselves.

Now understand this, in the animal kingdom, only humans possess the ability to conceptualise alternate versions of reality. Thus, only humans can contemplate death1. Second, because we are able to come up with different versions of reality, we can mentally separate between physical self and conceptual self. Furthermore, we can visualise multiple conceptual selves. Death is one of the conceptual self. So why aren’t we thinking about it?

Making plans, writing todo list, replying to emails, naturing a family, building our legacy, these things require us to visualise alternate versions of reality. If so, why don’t we include death as one of it? To even think of death makes one cringe. It sounds so solemn and negative. But don’t deny that death doesn’t lurk around the corner, because it does. Think lottery, the odds of winning is 1 in 175million. That’s 1 in 175,000,000. Or, 0.000000175%. Death is 100%. Nobody never escaped death. Everyone dies one day. Yet the ratio of thinking about lottery and thinking about death baffles me.

Coming back to Marcus Aurelius’s quote, should the grim reaper (or God) give us a ‘date’, how would we react? Let’s say the date is today, the day after, a month later, a few months later, a few years later, a decade later, a few decades later, how big a difference would it make? Further into this thought process, think of it this way:

  1. Living as per normal, not knowing when will we die (but do we know death awaits us all)
  2. Knowing we confirmed date (of death), how will we live

How would you live your life?

Due to the complexities of life, most of us are operating under #1. I’m not talking about people who have severe health conditions who’s doctor have given them rough gauge, they belong to #2. If, operating under #1 on good health conditions and assuming we ourselves a self imposed death date, would we live our lives differently? Would we still squander time away on meaningless squabbles? Would we then run down our bucket list and check them off before we take our last breath?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau

Pursuing the idea further:

Thoreau went into the woods to live a bare, spare, and essential existence… no modern conveniences to help him make things easier, no creature comforts to lighten his load. He went into the woods to learn what it meant to really live this life as it is, free of all the man-made accouterments that take the life out of life. Put in a more modern way, Thoreau wanted to live without the remote control.

His idea was that all the things we have concocted to make life easier for us to live, at the same time take the substance out of living, the morrow out of the bones. If you turn on the water spigot and water comes pouring out, you don’t have to pump it yourself. But it is in the very act of pumping the water yourself, that you feel the weight and substance of the water. In your hands, in your arms.

If things got tough for him, so be it; experience the toughness. If winter winds chilled him to the bone, so be it; feel the cold… know it from within. Thoreau went alone into the woods to learn how to live the way his maker intended to live.

We work hard to get a life of comfort. Yet it is the hardships that defines our lives. Catch-22.

So what gives?

Be mindful. Be appreciative. Be Zen.

And yet, live a life.

  1. Not including aliens, if, there is such a thing.

Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #5

What you are getting into: 513 words, 3mins read

Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.

Photo via Unsplash

Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.

— Then where is harm to be found?

In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet even if the body it’s attached to is stabbed or burnt, or stinking with pus, or consumed by cancer. Or to put it another way: It needs to realise that what happens to everyone — bad and good alike — is neither good or bad. That happens in every life — lived naturally or not — is neither natural nor unnatural.

This teaches one to let go of judgment. Our capacity to label things equates to judgment, which turns to harm. Anything that happened to us, can happen to anyone. For example, falling in love, striking the lottery, eating your favourite food, contracting sickness, being humiliated, etc — these are the things that can happen to anyone.

Stop for a minute and ask yourself when was the last time you said: “Why me?!” The act of asking this question generally stems from judging the unfairness that befell upon you. “I shouldn’t have experienced unfairness because I’m a good person.” Does that mean a bad person should be punished for their sins? Am I really free of sin? Is this judgment affecting me? Can I let go of the labels? Why do I even want to judge and label someone / something? Don’t I know that judging brings harm to my mind?

Once my mind accepts the labels put forth, it brings harm to me. Imagine that your loved one passed a scathing criticism to you. How would you react? Would you get defensive and engage in a heated discussion? Or would you feel extremely hurt and want nothing to do with them? Now imagine a stranger passing off a scathing criticism to you. How would you react this time round? Will your reaction still be the same?

You must know these are someone else’s opinions. Yes, they have the ability to influence you, but you have the ability to accept or reject them. Blindly accepting external opinions may make you a puppet. Rejecting all external opinions may make you isolated and detached. What gives?

Understand yourself. Your triggers. Your weak points. Your strong points. Build your own filters. Refine them. Know ultimately harm is merely our mind’s reaction. Like gatekeepers, they do not allow filth to enter. Neither should we untruth opinions to corrupt our mind.