46 / 365: Change is messy, here’s why …

Here’s a newsflash for you:

Change is messy. Transforming your life, becoming a new person, becoming the person that is rich, famous and sexy is more like a savage battle from the middle-ages than what most self-help coaches make it to be.

If you want to change, you need to face yourself. You know how hard that is? Chances you are, that’s why you don’t like to do it every single day. But the only way to actually become a new person is to face whoever is the old person and to kick it out, gradually, from your mind, soul and spirit until a new, better you takes place.

Look …

When I’ve started on this self-development thing, I was a kid. I was 14 or 15, maybe even younger. I haven’t started with Napoleon Hill but rather with books on seduction and persuasion. Then I’ve discovered NLP and self-improvement authors and I’ve acted accordingly (I was a big Tony Robbins fan – and looking back, I don’t understand why I’m not refreshing my mind with his info from time to time). I’ve read, I’ve studied, I’ve implemented, I’ve done exercises and my life changed.

Yet what nobody taught me was that I was not creating change – I was preparing for it. I was not in the arena, kicking, fighting, putting my opponent down but instead, I was training to be in the arena. The things that I thought were the end result were only the training.

I was developing skills. This was the easy part. The hard part was putting those skills to use. Against the world? Against society? No. Against myself.

Whenever you want to become a better person, you need to recognize who is the obstacle, the bottleneck towards that person. You may say that it is society. Fucking matrix, they want us down to buy their products and so on. Well, that may be partially true but it is not society. It is not your parents. It is not your best friend.

The obstacle is you. To be more exact – the part of you that says “I’m right” and doesn’t want to change. The monkey inside your brain that wants to play instead of work. The wolf inside your soul that want to destroy instead of to create and to love. You are your own obstacle towards becoming someone else.

And this process … is the real hard stuff.

Reading books is easy. Going to seminars is easy. Saying the right words about success … is easy. But here are a list of things that are not that easy.

  • Putting in the effort to make things happen in real life and not finding excuses to procrastinate.
  • Admitting that you are wrong, even when all you have left is your ego and there is no one in the background to cheer you for your moral resolution.
  • Starting from zero when you’ve lost, knowing that you’ve got a huge climb ahead and doing it day in and day out.
  • Understanding that success doesn’t require titanic efforts but it requires consistency and that doing a bit every single day will get you a lot more than massive sporadic actions.
  • Giving up on people who are not good for you and changing the definition of what is good for you – because a new person requires new friends.
  • Delaying gratification sometimes minutes, sometimes days, sometimes years in order to achieve a goal that is uncertain, and therefore, giving up on something safe for a greater thing down the line that you may not even get.
  • Understanding that when someone says that there is something wrong with you, there is nothing personal. That person just points out something that you are and while it may not be very comfortable, that thing exist no matter if you admit it or not.
  • Finally … fully understanding that life is life and that just because you say something, doesn’t make it truth.

I’ll further develop on the last point as it is the most important from the entire article. Just because you can justify something, this doesn’t mean that it’s right.

I’ve failed mostly because of lack of consistent effort. I’ve made mistakes out of lack of maturity and because I’ve lied to myself. Many times I’ve failed because I was not prepared enough to tackle a situation. I’ve been a horrible boyfriend to girls that deserved a lot better because I was not mature enough and I had (have) a huge ego. I was a horrible friend to people that respected and care about me because I was not mature enough. I don’t have a six pack (to put it lightly for me) because I’ve ate a lot of crap at McDonalds as it was a lot easier than preparing food for myself.

Can I say that all the above are false? Of course. I can say that I’ve failed because I’ve had a rough childhood and because people are mean. Only if I was born in a different world. I can say that I’ve been a horrible boyfriend because it was never meant to be and destiny wanted me to break up with that person or that I was a horrible friend because nobody understood me.

But it would be a lie. Actually, it would be worse than a lie, it would be self-deception. And while in my mind I would have a version of the truth, it would not change the facts, what really exists and what doesn’t.

I’ve brought this up because as I’ve said, in order to change, you need to face your demons. You need to admit first that you are wrong, most of the time, if you don’t get results. I’m not talking now about harming yourself for the sake of harming. This is not a “Oh, I suck, I don’t deserve to live” type of scenario. This is seeing yourself in a mature perspective so you know where you stand.

This is understanding the difference between conviction and reality. I can believe a lot in a thing. This doesn’t make it true or right. What makes it right is causality. Not my mind. My mind doesn’t have the ability to change cause and effect, only to abide by it.

Facing those demons is the hardest part of the change. Most people don’t change because even if they have the tools, they aren’t willing to look at themselves. Change is not that hard and you don’t need to study success for 20 years. You need to read a few books and learn a few concepts.

The hard part is accepting that you were wrong and that this old part of yourself needs to go. When you do this, you change. And I think that the difference between self-improvement wannabe and actual successful people comes down to this – that critical moment when they look in the mirror and without words, without sounds, without blinking they know that they must change. Now.

It’s not that moment when you announce to everyone that you’re going to quit smoking and three days later, you start smoking again. It is that moment when you are sitting on a bench, with the pack in your hands. You look at it like it is a strange, foreign object. You look at the small tubes inside of it and you wonder why the hell you are smoking. Your hand, by natural motion wants to pick one up, as you’ve done thousands of times but there is no motivation to do it. You don’t want it anymore.

And you say … “fuck it” and you quit. That’s change.

It’s not when you pump yourself up with motivational materials that you’re going to work hard today. Is when you look at your life and you are tired of this shit. You see others driving Range Rovers and you can’t afford to pay the rent … or in some cases, even a rent. You look at yourself and you’re a mess. You think about what you’ve done this week for you and your life and the answer is nothing … nothing at all.

You sit down, you take a deep breathe and you admit it – you’ve fucked up. But there is no one there to make you feel worse or better. It’s just you. The silence is your only critic.

So the next morning you just wake up at 05:00 and you get to work. You don’t need to listen to Tony Robbins telling you what to do. You have something inside of you that says “I’d rather exhaust myself working than have to face that silence again”. You are your own judge and you don’t need to force yourself to do anything – because the action comes effortless.

That’s change.

A messy, painful process of accepting that you’re not on the right road no matter how much you’d like to think otherwise. A process where you don’t need 100 tools to do something, you just need to give up on what’s preventing you from making that change. And even if sometimes there are external factors – in most cases – that obstacle is you.

Take care,
Razvan

45 / 365: Abstractization life to high-level programming language.

Abstract thinking.

Such two beautiful words and every time I can take my thinking to a new level of abstractization I feel different. Not better, just different.

Let me define it. You know what a Matrioska doll is? It is a doll inside of another doll. The upper layer contains another layer until the smallest possible unit. It is an example of abstractization. Why?

Think about computer science. The most basic level is binary. You have 0 and 1. You have “yes” and “no”. However, programming in binary or a low level language is not practical. The effort required to do this is not justified. So you learn to use a higher level language, one that with a single command can represent 100 lines of binary code.

Each higher level language allows to do more with less. It is like saying “car” instead of saying “vehicle with four wheels, an engine, doors, a steering wheel”. When you abstract something, you use less for more. Chess is an abstract concept for strategy (or can be used) and words are an abstract approach to expressing complex thoughts. Time is an abstract concept of decay and light is an abstract concept of wave and particle.

So today I was thinking about different parts of my life, a very specific one actually. And in one stroke of genius, I’ve started to see it as a computer program. Like a set of causal relationships between action and reaction filled with bugs that crash the program rather fast. I’ve started to see my procrastination like a program that is hungry for resources (time) and it is not provided this. I’ve started to apply a high level, abstract view over my life as a whole and I’ve draw a few conclusions.

Conclusion #1 – Like a programming language, life is a series of simple cause and effect equations. You do this and you get that. It is not more complex than this. As long as you hold the same cause, read that as in behavior, you’ll get the same effect.

Conclusion #2 – Life works in a feedback loop. It is not a perfect loop but it starts somewhere, it ends somewhere and it starts a new cycle, influenced by the last one. So chances are tomorrow is going to be very similar to today because tomorrow is an evolutionary new cycle of today.

Conclusion #3 – There are small and big bugs. A small bug prevents you from getting it perfect. It is like a dent in the program but it is still stable and running. In order for it to be stable and running, it comes down to completing it’s cycle and achieving its desired goal – in other words, it is like a wheel that spins. The big bugs crash the program. They may prevent it from going forward, may make it skip instruction or may change the entire interpretation. Think about adding a simple +1 in a complex equation or even a simple one. The result may be very different from what you’ve wanted from that simple +1.

Conclusion #4 – Fix bugs when you can fix them. The ultimate goal is the efficiency of the program. If you have a program that does a certain goal, the only goal you have is for it to reach that goal in the easiest possible manner. You don’t want to add anything that makes harder to achieve the goal. So find the goals, bottlenecks, problems, however the hell you want to call them and fix them. It improves the efficiency. Start with those that are program breaking – it is better to have an inefficient program that at least reaches full cycle and starts again than one that is stuck at some point.

Conclusion #5 – Sometimes you need a new approach. Every “program” is already written and your primary focus may be to fix bugs. However, I’ve realized that in some cases you need to find a completely new way of thinking about things. In other words, the entire paradigm of how you are doing something may be wrong so it is not about fixing that way but rather creating a way that works. Be ready to “shed the code” when you need to do it. Some problems in your life are not about “programming breaking bugs” but rather about your basic assumptions on how that program should run. 1 + 1 will never equal 3.

Conclusion #6 – Programs require resources. Any program requires some resource. If you want to go to drink a glass of water, you need the physical energy to go there and the time required to go there. If you want to run a marathon, you need again resources and resource capacity. So this means that no matter what “life program” you are running, unless you are providing it with the required resources, it can’t work. It is like an engine. How do you want output if it doesn’t have input? “Life programs” can be made more efficient by eliminating bugs or defining a new approach on how to construct them but they will never require zero resources.

Now let me explain some things …

I use programming as an abstract concept for life, not because we operate as computers but rather because programming logic is based on causality, on cause and effect. You know what is also based on causality? Life, in general, metaphysics, existence in its whole. So it is a good representation of a very complex system – in other words, programming logic is an abstract view of reality in general and reality is an abstract view of something a lot bigger that we don’t understand yet.

Just like chess is an abstractization of strategy, so is programming logic an abstractization of life and how we operate but it is not the same thing. The map is not the territory, it is a representation of the territory.

So based on this, let me give you the non abstract conclusions …

#1 – You get what you do in life. This is absolute.

#2 – What you do and what you get always have a start and a end cycle. In similar conditions, you get predictable behavior. So as long as you do the same thing, you’ll get the same thing.

#3 – There are inefficiencies in what you do that require you to do more, it costs you more, gives you less results or simply prevents you from getting the desired result. Since the goal of any behavior is to get an outcome, a result, these inefficiencies can either make it harder to do so or block the outcome happening, by blocking the logical chain between cause and effect or derailing it.

#4 – If you eliminate inefficiencies, you can get more with less and this is always a good thing. Prioritize on whatever prevents you from getting from A to B and only after you’ve eliminated the “crashing bugs” you can focus on the efficiency ones. The stability of a system is always a priority compared to the performance of that system. NEVER sacrifice stability for performance, the average will always be worse.

#5 – Doing something wrong better doesn’t make it good. Sometimes the basic assumptions of what you need to do, the skeleton of your behavior, the basic building blocks are flawed so fixing any bugs is worthless. You need a new way of doing things.

#6 – Every cause and effect loop requires some resources – if you don’t feed them, it won’t work. It’s as simple as that.

What is the conclusion, the final one here?

Look around you, at your life. Look at the cause and effect relationships. Do they work? If they never work or rarely work, you need a new approach, one that work. If they work, look at eliminating bugs, making them more efficiently.

Causality is beautiful. It is A -> B.

Causality is like code. Take a look at this.

document.writeln(“Hello, World”);

Look at how beautiful it is. It is cause and effect. States the cause and you get the effect, hello word on the screen. As you can see there is a start and a finish. It is not a loop. After it is displayed, the program is over and it doesn’t consume any more resource. It doesn’t define what “document” and “writein” is because it a higher level language.

So it is with life. Cause and effect. Look at what works and what doesn’t. Eliminate inefficiency. Rethink approaches. Keep in mind that not you, nor your mom or teacher define what is right or wrong – only pure, beautiful causality.

Best regards,

Razvan

44/365: On The Class & Specifics Of Predicting Causality

A common motto among the self-improvement circle is that “if you want to predict the future, the best way, is to create it”. This means that a large number of people believe that you can predict where you will be in your life at any point, especially if you set very specific goals.

Another large of people say that it is impossible. Life is random, impossible to predict and “Man plans and God laughs”. I find them to be both false.

In order to explain why, I must explain two concepts used it, the class and the specifics. The class of the future is a general overview. For example, working in marketing is the class. Living in Australia is a class. The specifics are the exact details. Working at Ogilvy as a copywriter is a specific. Living in Perth is another specific.

From what I have understood so far, everything in life is a causal relationship, a relationship between “happens” and “the consequence of that happens”. Second, while it is possible to determine the class of the future as it is based on fundamentals like mindset, risk adversity, work ethic, genetics it is very hard to impossible to determine the actual specifics.

A few days ago I’ve visited a store dedicated to Forest Gump in London. I remembered the quote from “Forest Gump” …

… “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”.

While it is not as deep as I want it to be, it is a good metaphor. When you open that box, you know that (most of the time) there is going to be chocolate. But you don’t know if it is strawberry or caramel or milk. This is the nature and specificity paradox, you can determine the nature of what it is going to be but due to the complexity of causal relationships, it is impossible to determine exactly how it is going to look like.

Do you want a pragmatic example?

Your habits now are determining your long term predictions for your life. If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll get fat. If you like to read a lot, you’ll become very educated and so on. In a way, if you tell me what you have done in the last 24 hours, I can tell you where you’ll be in five years, if excluding any black swan events, events highly improbable in a closed system.

However, while I can tell you that you’ll earn a lot of money if you are the type, I can’t tell you exactly how or where. It may be a job or a business. While I can tell you someone that you’ll love a lot, I can’t tell you her name, occupation, height, eye color or so. I can tell you some general assumptions about her personality due to the pre-selection process but that’s about it.

When I’ve started my trip, after Budapest I was supposed to go to Bratislava. Since it was very close, less than 3 hours by bus, I had no reason not to go. Then one day, I felt stressed. I felt stressed so I went down to smoke. There there was a girl working at the hostel. We’ve exchanged a few words. She told me about Italy. I went to Italy. Virtually where I am now and with whom is a direct consequence of me taking that decision, that day. One day later or earlier and my entire timeline, my entire future would have been very different.

Did I knew that I’m going to travel? Yes. That’s the general class of the future. Did I knew that I’m going to Italy and then to Spain and then to London and that in Italy I’m going to meet the girl with which I’m now? No. These are impossible to predict, at least by the human brain. Yes, statistically, you can predict these things if you have data about all the causal relationships in the world, where everyone is, doing, liking, eating, sleeping, etc. It is an exciting thing to think about the idea of predicting future by collecting and aggregating data from all possible sources that “do” something in this world. However, this is at least a few thousands of years too early as we don’t have the technology or the capacity to place ourselves in the seats of gods and play with the past, present and the future.

Life is NOT random. As long as the states in which the universe can exist are in a limited number, then at some points, there will be patterns. When patterns exist, outcomes can be predicted. But you see, what happens 100.000 light years away is not really affecting what is happening to you now, at least not to a level that matters. So the states that any atom can exist on this planet is a fixed number and because of this, with enough capturing of information and computing power, as long as you have enough information about the case, you can predict the outcome. Life is a deterministic, Markov system.

Getting back to the non-nerd talk, the more you know about the start, the better you can predict the future. There is a direct proportional relationship between the awareness of the cause and the precision of the outcome. The problem is that while computers can run complicated algorithms to predict outcomes, we as humans, we can’t. We can’t even do complicated math in our head, the idea of creating complex equation of cause and effect is ludicrous at this moment in human evolution (or at any moment for that matter, I think we will be extinct long before we can develop this ability).

So if we can’t do it, why do I write about it?

Because we have a limited ability to predict the future. We can not predict exactly what is going to happen but we can predict the class of the action that is going to happen. This system is not proofed but it is rather accurate. So yes, you can predict your future in large terms but due to the complexity of the causes involved in a cause and effect relationship, causes that are within your awareness and which are not, it is biologically impossible to determine specific outcomes. So pray for a revolution in how powerful quantum computers can become, a very efficient algorithm and the maturity to use this wisely.

For example, Google can predict which roads are going to be crowded based on statistical trends which is a very rough form of what I’m writing above. It collects information, determines patterns and makes assumptions. It can always be wrong but it is usually right. So it is my computer when it states how much battery I have left. It knows that if I consume X/hour, the battery capacity is Y, then I have Z left.

Again though, these are very crude tools. The potential of this is limitless. There are causal relationships between temperature and student’s interest in the class, between how crowded is a city and how well two people will get there and so on. A net of sensors that determine even basic KPIs like movement and temperature can create huge statistical model in a city. Then an algorithm can determine causal relationships like where it is most likely for a crime to happen or where people get hungry and want a hamburger. It is the ultimate tool of market research but at the same time, it is a double edged sword – so much potential for productive action but also so much potential for a totalitarian society.

So why I like the concept, I hope that it will remain a concept for now. We don’t have the maturity to employ computing power to determine causal relationships as these can be easily abused.

Best regards,
Razvan

43 / 365: Stop trying to change people.

Howdy,

As people, we like to brag. A lot. I don’t know the evolutionary psychology behind it but I’m sure we have neural pathways with the only purpose of feeling superior to others.

In the past, we bragged about a lot of things. As caveman – my club is bigger than yours. Bang! In the middle ages – I have a better horse than yours. In the 1800s – I have more slaves than you. In the 2000s – I’m an atheist, I’m smarter than you.

Well … it seems that the trend in 2016 is to brag about self-improvement. To be more specific – to find it impossible to consider that some people may not be interested in what you’re interested too and how your lecture of Napoleon Hill can save their life – if only they would listen to you.

Look … I’m a big, big time reader of self-improvement. I average way over 50 books per year and many are in this area. In the beginning, I was looking around me and I’ve thought that I had the keys and the answers to everything – that I know what every friend and stranger should do – just if he / she will listen to me. And … nobody listened. Some were polite to listen, approved me but never changed.

That’s when I’ve became frustrated. How dare you? I’m showing you a key to change your life. You’ve told me that you want a better life and better results. Now I’m showing you how to do this. How dare you not follow them? Idiot. You’re not my friend anymore.

This is how it was happening. Well, maybe not so dramatic but not that far away either. The simple fact that someone may not subscribe to my same principles, mindset, goals was so insulting that I’ve broke up many friendships because of this. It’s like the deism vs atheism principle – “what, you don’t believe in God? I’m sorry … we can’t be friends”.

It was … or is immature. Believe me. And it was … is hypocritical. Why? Five reasons. Plus a bonus one.

Reason #1 – People change for their own reasons. Somebody told me that smoking is bad for me. I’ve heard this many times so I’ve dismissed it. A smarter person quantified it and showed me what I’m losing – in terms of physical capacity, money even self-respect and how it is shaping my behavior. That person was … right.

The logic was right. It wasn’t fairy dust. I still didn’t quit even if I’ve agreed. Why? Because people change themselves when they want to change themselves, not when you give them reasons to do so.

This is one of those logical fallacies that nobody gets it. Another similar one is giving someone reasons to be happy or someone reasons not to be upset. When someone is upset, that person doesn’t engage in an emotional state based on a rational calculation that lead to pain. It is simply a primal, instinctive emotion that was activated. Bringing rational reasons to change an emotional state is like bringing winter clothes in the middle of the summer. It is functional, you may need them (especially if you live in England) but overall, from a logical perspective, the only reaction is “WTF?”.

People don’t change just because you give them reasons to change. People change them they give themselves reasons to change, most probably when they want something so much or they are in so much pain that the status quo won’t do it anymore.

Reason #2 – Logic is over-rated in human interactions. 

Some people appreciate logic and live under it. Most don’t. Life is mostly not a debate and people don’t admit defeat just because you’ve beat them on a verbal level. In other words, you can be the smartest person in the world and have the best arguments – this may not change a person towards your direction not even a bit.

Instead, you change a person using mental and emotional judo. You take what that person already believes and slowly you move the direction towards another point. You never slap people with ideas in the face. You’ll just get their resentment and you’ll fail at your goal to persuade them.

Reason #3 – There is a thing called subjective experience.

You know where I am now? I’m at McDonalds. I’m not eating. I’m having a coffee. I actually like the McCoffee. It’s around 3 USD. StarBucks is next to McDonalds. I may not afford to go daily only to StarBucks but I can go now. I’m not. Why?

Because I consider that coffee not to be that good. I think it is overrated. I think that I don’t need their dim light to work or to read a book. And for 25% of the price, I’m getting actually a good deal at McDonalds.

This is a subjective experience. It’s what I like and I don’t like based on an intricate patterns of “self” that determine who I am. Some people like to go there every single day and they enjoy every single sip from their $15 USD coffee. I don’t.

The point is that if someone tries to convince me that I’m getting a lot more there, I won’t believe him. He can bring me all the facts in the world and he may be right. They have good internet. People are quiet and everyone is working, kind of priming you to work too. Every time you go there, it is like the Apple Store with a lot of focused people. The coffee is high quality and they have a lot of options. This is the objective truth. Yet, I don’t like StarBucks so much.

Reason #4 – People don’t like to feel inferior.

You’re walking down the street. I come to you and I tell you this.

“Look, you are walking almost every day. So why aren’t you listening to an audiobook? You could finish several books in a month. Aren’t you upset that you don’t have more money and that you are not as smart as you want to be? Really, listen to an audiobook”.

While to the untrained eye, this may seem a good persuasion pattern, since I’ve agitated him, actually, it is an awful one. I’ve basically said “you suck” and while I may be right, it’s kind of hard to react to negative feedback in a positive way. It takes a certain degree of maturity to do this, a level that most people don’t have, me included.

As a human, our first reaction when we get negative feedback, no matter how useful it may be is to feel a negative emotion. You can be the Dalai Lama, you’ll still feel on an instinctive, even visceral level, a negative feeling when you are judged, directly or indirectly.

From that moment, you can make a choice and take it as positive, constructive feedback but this part is a rational one, it is a choice. If no choice is made, then you’ll feel like that person attacked you. So even if you are right, if the other person feels insulted, you think you’ve accomplished something? You are not a philosopher into some deep search of truth. Your responsibility as someone’s friend is to exchange value, not to act as the emotional equivalent to Wikipedia, cold, ruthless, apathetic. Your job is to make the other person feel good and only when there is a very special situation, to sacrifice this for the truth.

And let’s be honest … You’re not that perfect either. It doesn’t feel good, does it?

Reason #5 – Truth is subjective

Okay … what is right and wrong?

For example, it is wrong to kill? Are you sure? It is wrong to kill someone that wants to kill you? It is wrong to kill someone that wants to kill your family? OK, let’s go to something smaller as this may not be the best example. It is wrong to lie? This is what the bible says, as the atheist in me actually read a part of the bible.

If your lie would make someone want to commit suicide, it is bad anymore? After all, preserving someone’s life comes higher than the truth.

You see where’s the problem? There is no real hierarchy of values and it is all relative to something else. This is why morality can’t be defined more than a system of values relative to a reference point. The same can be said about some parts of the truth.

What is true for you may not be true for another person. What works for me, may not work for another person. While proven principles tend to be universal, circumstances differ. This means that you can take an concept and have different results with two different people just because their circumstances are different.

BONUS: If people actually need you help, they’ll come to ask for it. Just because you have the tool to being rich, happy and sexy, this doesn’t mean other people are actively looking for it. So don’t help people that don’t want to be helped and instead focused on those that actually appreciates it. If you came to my house and offered me to sell a bottle of water, I may pay $0.5 for it. If you find me in the desert, after three days with no water, I’ll pay $500. Just because someone needs it, this doesn’t mean the person is willing to value the advice. Find those who do.

Time for a conclusion. If you want to improve your life, improve your life. Don’t brag about it. Don’t force others to see who you are. Nobody cares. Use that time to do what you need to do to get results. You’ll be rewarded in many ways but nobody is going to raise you a statue because you know more than others.

Best regards,
Razvan

PS: Be so dedicated to making your life and the life of those you love better  (BUT NOT BY FORCING OR EVEN TRYING TO CHANGE THEM) that you don’t have time to judge how others are not what you want them to be.

42 / 365: How I’ve Really Developed Gratitude …

Gratitude is such a buzz word these days. It is promoted as a solution to anything, from anxiety to depression to relationship challenges and even to improve your health.

However, “show gratitude” usually enters the same category as “be happy”. Sounds easy in theory and hard in practice. Usually, it is suggested to have a gratitude journal where you write down reasons why you feel lucky but after a while, it comes down to “Thank you for this beautiful day and thank you for the people around me”. In other words, it is a classic example where something is done at a very superficial level and the actual improvements to that person’s life are marginal.

I’d like to take a new perspective on this.

Yesterday, while near Tower Hill in London, I was listening to an audiobook and heading towards the station. Then I saw a beggar. I don’t usually notice them and I generally ignore them. Call it rationalization or however you want to call it but I don’t think I notice 95% of them.

In this case, it was different. I saw him and I saw something … different in him. Apart from the sign that wrote that he served in the army, there was some kind of … kindness but also resignation in him. He looked at me in a way that didn’t reproached or anything, just to see if I can spare a pound or so. I haven’t. Three stations later, I was ready to return to do this but I haven’t. I felt horrible for a few tens of minutes.

It is not the fact that he was a beggar, it was the fact that in a way, I could be so receptive to what he was feeling, in a way that rarely happens. Through his body-language, through the sign that mentioned that he served in the military, through the resignation on his face when he thought that I’m going to donate but I haven’t … I’ve realized a lot.

And that’s when you learn the idea of gratitude. You don’t need to read a book about it or go to a course. You don’t need to sign up for a fancy online service, download an app or buy an expensive journal to write your gratitude thoughts.

I’ve learned then to feel thankful because I have people who care about me enough to never let me reach that state. I’m sure that he too was a strong person once but not everyone can be strong, all the time and then he slipped. I’m sure too he had dreams and ambitions and goals and I’m grateful for the fact that I can pursue them in my own life. I’m grateful for the coffee that I haven’t started drinking yet and for the chance to write this on my laptop, at 6 AM in the morning (anyway, 7 AM).

When you see a person like that, the first thought is to dismiss it. It is uncomfortable to accept the reality. However, the fact I guess that I’ve felt empathy at a very intense level, even if it was for just a brief second, made me realize how many blessings I have in my own life. I am living an exciting, beautiful adventure. I have people that love me. I do something that I love doing, most of the time anyway. I am heading on a path of my life that promises a lot. I am developing myself as a person and it is easier and easier to look in the mirror and love myself, something that was rather difficult not so long ago.

I am grateful. Even if I feel a bit guilty for not helping him … I am grateful for everything that I am, have around me and will be. It doesn’t take a lot to get there, where he was and I can’t dismiss it by saying that I’m a stronger person. I am but I’ve had a lot of favorable circumstances working towards my favor.

So thank you life … for everything. I’m really grateful.

Best regards,
Razvan

PS: I don’t think it is possible to fix everything that is wrong in the world. In a way, it is darwinism, survival of the fittest.

However, I do believe that we can change a small part of it. Now, I won’t become a social activist. It is not my thing. You won’t find me at a rally trying to change something. When other people go to these things, I’m home sleeping or watching a movie. I haven’t been to a single one, I don’t donate to Greenpeace and I’m not volunteering my weekends.

Nevertheless … I do believe that I can change a small part of the world. It may be myself, it may be my girlfriend, it may be my friends. When you walk down the street and you pick up an empty pack of cigarettes to throw it into the bin, you’ve changed something for the better.

It is not much, but you’ve made an impact.

When you smile to someone or say to someone “it has been a pleasure”, you are making someone’s day better. You may think that these things are common sense but it is more common to frown these days than to actually smile.

When you do a small gesture of appreciation or service, you are making a small part of the world better. When you serve others, you serve yourself because others are your environment unless you’ve decided to go Walden style and live in a forest.

So the call to action is not to become an activist for anyone’s rights. It’s not that. I mean if that’s your thing, do it but it is not mine. My call to action is to bring a little bit of happiness or light whenever you can – preferably for someone close to you, someone that you love but if not, even for a complete stranger. We’re actually all of us together in this.

So … think about this.

41 / 365: The Illusion Of Control.

Control.

In a way, this is something you strive all your life to have. From the moment you are born to the moment you die, the entire life is a futile pursuit for control. One in which you want to predict with as much certainty as possible what it is going to happen and you want life to follow a mathematical precision.

This sounds great but … it is an illusion.

After the events in the last month or so, most of which were positive, I’ve understood that there is no real control in life. That yes, you can have a direction and you can move towards that direction but circumstances won’t play out based on a single factor. Circumstances play out based on a combination of different processes and systems and at the end of the day you can try to have control (and fail) or you can simply roll with the punches.

Does this mean that you have no control over life whatsoever?

No. You can set goals and you can accomplish them. You can set intentions and you can follow them. You can say “I’m here and I’m going to get there” and you can do that. You have absolute control over the driver’s seat of your life, over the vehicle that gets you from A to B. But if life is a car, you have control over your car (at least most of the time) but you don’t control the road. Or the traffic. You don’t control if the road is going to be a smooth or a bumpy one. You don’t control how other drivers will act.

And once you understand this …

… it becomes very simple. Life becomes simple. It comes down to doing your best of what you can do and let the other factors be. You know, in a way, it is like the weather. You can’t control it. You can get dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and in five minutes, it can start raining. This actually happened a few days ago. You can’t control the rain. You can go back and get more clothes and an umbrella.

So it is with the metaphysical aspect of existence. You can’t control what really happens around you but you can control your reaction. You can’t really control how people are going to treat you but you can control how you can react to that. You can’t control circumstances so much but you can always or at least, most of the time, control your own reaction to circumstances.

Once you realize this … you simply let it go. Some people call this God, like a higher being, force, whatever that controls everything that happens. I’m an atheist so I just called it perceived randomness. It is not actually random though. Since the universe is not infinite (expanding to an infinite state doesn’t mean that it is infinite, it just means that it is heading there) there can be a limited number of states in which any object, any person, any particle and beam in the universe can exist. So since there is a limited number of options, this means that the universe is a predictable environment.

And if you take into account enough factors, everything can be predicted. I believe that in a few hundreds of thousands years, quantum computing will be so efficient that it will take into account everything to predict the future. But right now, you can’t do that. You know that what happens, happens because different cause and effects interact together but you can’t actually predict how and you shouldn’t even try. It’s just … life.

Anyway, getting back to the point …

… Reality is too much of a complex mechanism to actually predict how it is going to work. But your reactions are not. In every action there are a lot of possible reactions. Some will empower you, others will not. For example, let’s say that you will wake up tomorrow and it is raining outside. You can curse the weather or you can take a book and read. You can call a cab and go somewhere or you can simply walk through the rain. There are many possible reactions. You can’t change the rain but this doesn’t mean that you are stuck on a course of action. You are virtually limitless here.

Once I’ve accepted that I rarely have control over what is around me and my true control is over what I am and what I do, what is in my area of control, my life became a lot easier. I’ve realized that there are actions that are in my area of control … my area of influence and finally, that are out of my area of control. I can focus mostly on the first and a bit on the second and the most I focus on this small circle, I extend my area. But even so, I accept that absolute control over circumstances is a huge illusion and that you just let things to be.

Things are the way they are because they work this way on a cause and effect level. If something exists in a certain way it is because there are factors that make it to be that way. It is not random. It is as natural as 3 + 3 = 6. You can’t really change the state of the thing, you can change the factors that make it to be that way.

But everything is as it is supposed to be. You can’t wish things to be different because it is futile. Things, circumstances to be more specific are just an result of a complex equation of causes and effects that are happening all around you.

So the next time you ask “why is this happening to me?” the answer is simpler. It is happening to you, good or bad, because there are many factors that came together to make that happen. And when you’ll change enough factors to shift the direction, the circumstances will change. Maybe they’ll change dramatically, maybe not. It all comes down to the building blocks of reality and how they are working towards that effect.

Best regards,
Razvan Rogoz

40 / 365: Nietzsche was right …

From time to time, you get a paradigm shift. Not the kind of where you make an marginal improvement on a belief and now you know it a little bit better. Rather, the kind in which you are faced data that goes so much against your paradigm, against your beliefs that it feels alien … and yet, logically, you know that the data is right.

You know that your own beliefs, experiences, points of references shaped what you think about X or Y and you take them for granted. After all, these are the lenses through which you look at the world. Yet, you realize that they are wrong … and right at the same time. And since A can’t equal B at the same space and time, you wonder who is wrong.

I’ve met some an example not so long ago and I’ve understood something critical. In the moment you simply let it go and stop judging what is right or wrong, you lose all your fear. After all, what shapes our behavior? Desire and fear. And if you do those things that may fear you, either on a emotionally or rationally level, you get rid of them. You don’t become pure but you become less vulnerable.

And then it comes to two phrases.

“Those who play with the devil’s toys will soon bear it’s sword”.

This Nietzsche-an like quote is about the fact that if we start wondering on a path, soon we’ll find ourselves doing it more and more. That it takes a single step in either direction, good or bad to build momentum and that there are only shades of grey between white and black.

I’ve been thinking about this and how it works in a self-reinforcing loop. If you do something, good or bad, whatever the hell that means, you’ll get feedback. That feedback is causal, it is not based on your values but it is based on reality, on cause and effect. With enough feedback, you build a momentum. In other words, it is enough to throw a single snowball for it to compound into an avalanche into the right conditions.

And when this happens, we have two choices. Either adapt our outer world or our inner world. In other words, we either move into an environment where are actions are rewarded or we rationalize our actions so there won’t be any cognitive dissonance, that there won’t be two concepts of good and evil at the same time.

Then is the quote from beyond good and evil by Nietzsche …

“If you stare enough into the abyss, the abyss will stare back at you”. It wasn’t actually like this but for all intents and purposes, it works.

What does it mean?

It means that you can conquer it. Fear. Anxiety. Anything. It is the equivalent metaphor of staring an eye into the eyes until the lion turns back and runs.

I’ve seen this recently and I was impressed, to say at least. I’ve seen how if an individual is at the edge, ready to lose everything and then just lets go, that individual will become fearless. No attachments. No fear. Nothing. After all, after staring fear into the eyes long enough, few things can scare you anymore.

Best regards,
Razvan

39 / 365: And all is good in the world today …

When I was 18 or 19, I’ve met a young, dreamy girl who told me one phrase – “all is good in the world today”. This phrase stuck with me, day by day, month by month, year by year and it means more to me than a lot of the things in my life.

And today, this was put to the test.

Today was the kind of day in which the past, the present, the absurd, the predictable and the future all collide to ruin my day. Not just to ruin it but to make it as awful as possible.

And so here I was, on a transfer bus shuttle, being hungry, being annoyed, being anxious, being sad, being all of these things at once. And then I’ve realized it.

There is no destination. I may die today. I may die during that ride actually. There may be no tomorrow or next year. There may be nothing. All I have is that particular moment not what will happen in T+60 minutes T+365 days.

It hit me, this is my life, this is all that there is, this experience, right here and now and while I have plans and goals, the only thing I can take for granted is this one. Everything else may or may not happen but the present is happening. The present is certain. The present is assured, nothing else is.

So I’ve just put myself some music and I’ve let it go. Yes, things can go very bad or things can become better or things may not change at all. I don’t know. What I do know is that what is now is not what it is going to be in the future. I may reach my goal or I may not. But the truth is that in the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. I am here, I am now and I am grateful for this particular moment.

I don’t need to run from it by going to the past or the future. The present, this present, is marvelous.

And then all was good in the world once again.

I’ve decided to let it go a bit. To smile, to enjoy the moment as much as I’m capable without forcing myself. And it worked.

I don’t know how my life will be in a month but all is good in the world today and I’m grateful for it.

Best regards,
Razvan

PS: Thank you.

38 / 365: You are the sum of your choices.

I’ve realized something a long time ago. At the end of the day, it is not so much if you feel like doing something but if you do it. In other words, you can look at any given day and it doesn’t matter if it was a good or a bad day, but rather if you’ve put in the effort for the future.

It would be nice to wake up each and every day focused, determined and motivated. It would be nice to feel every single day that you can take on the world. But the truth is that those are rare moments and you can’t rely on them alone. You need a routine. You need a ritual. You need a framework which you can follow both in good and bad times.

Every single person on this Earth think he / she is productive. But if people would actually track what they do, they would quickly realize that it is not the case. If you would keep a list daily of what you’ve accomplished vs. what you’ve set to accomplish, you’ll see that there are days, even weeks in which you haven’t got some things done. Being aware, tracking your workflow is the best way to actually stay on track.

For example, I track four things. If I wake up at 04:00, if I hit my work goal, if I hit my study goal, if I exercise. If I am to look at the past week, I am ashamed. There are a lot of red markers there and only a few green ones. But I’ve felt productive, I’ve felt good. Yet, in real life, I wasn’t. Just because I’ve did some things sporadically and I felt good about doing them this doesn’t mean that I was actually productive.

And what have I’ve done in the last week that “prevented” me from being productive?

  • Reading tens of travel blogs.
  • Watching House of Cards.
  • Watching videos on YouTube.
  • Last night I’ve stayed up late until 02:00 AM to watch “The Transporter”.
  • Wasting time on Facebook.

I can’t say that I’ve done a single good major thing instead of doing my rituals. I can’t say that I’ve read so much (I’ve started a book two weeks ago, haven’t finished it yet). I haven’t went outside to explore because it was raining and even this is only an excuse. I haven’t worked on my book. I haven’t watched motivational videos. I haven’t formed new meaningful connections. I’ve simply lost time. And this is not a good thing.

And now, I’ve realized how important is that time and that I don’t want to waste it anymore. I could be doing something meaningful in it. How can I complain that I don’t have time to call people that I love if I waste it? How can I complain that I don’t have time to go see a movie or at the Opera if I waste it? How can I complain that my life is not where I want it to be if I waste my time? How can I expect greatness from myself if I spend more time deciding if I want to buy the new iPhone vs actually doing something productive. After all, if I were to do something productive, the added gain would have been large enough to cover any mistake I would do with the above.

How can I value my time when I carry conversations with people who try to recruit me into MLM businesses? Who don’t know who I am, don’t care what I want yet they have “a deal of a lifetime” for me. How can I value my time when I spend hours carrying conversations that are meaningless in the end and do not add any value to my life nor to the other’s life person.

I’m not 14 anymore. I don’t have all the time in the world. Yet, I sometimes act like I’m a 14 year old dumb kid and I’m starting to appreciate more and more the people who invest just as much time as it is required in talking with me, who are not available at my whim, because they value their time. And I need to learn how to value mine too.

The rules of engagement are simple.

  • You have friends that are not going on the same path as you are. Find new friends.
  • You are doing things from momentum that are not bringing you what you want to have. Stop doing them and do what’s right for you instead.
  • You are carrying your life in a manner that leads to a lot of rationalization but few results. Stop doing this, take your excuses and shove them somewhere and do what brings you results.

And you know what’s stupid? At least when it came to people, I’ve picked convenience. I had these amazing people in my life with which I could spend hours and be sad at the end because I had to end the conversation.

  • There was this amazing girl once with which I’ve spent hours talking about life at a coffee shop, about her plans, about mine and she’s not in my life anymore.
  • There were these amazing two girls that were fun loving, adventure loving individuals and could simply push me outside of my comfort zone and yet, I haven’t talked with them for months, if not a year.
  • There was this girl with whom I’ve discussed about The Selfish Gene book and evolution and she’s not in my life anymore.
  • There was this amazing friend who was a soldier and now a network analyst with which I used to spend hours talking about things smoking and drinking beer and I haven’t called him in over a year.
  • There was this amazing girl that was a lot younger than me but impressed me with each conversation and left me inspired and determined each time we’ve talked but we’ve broke contact.

I’ve had so many diamonds in my life and yet, I’ve excluded most of them. Even those I still have, I spend far less time with them than with the people that don’t actually bring me a lot of value. I go out to coffee with folks that at the end of the day just leave me tired and in a state of apathy when I could buy a train ticket / plane ticket / bus and meet with folks that would change my life forever.

The shame is on me. These were my choices and I’m glad I’m realizing them sooner than later. I’ve excluded, disappointed, rejected the truly valuable people and I was left with those that I don’t need in this stage of my life. And now, I need to start from zero and build this network again.

Making the right choices, when it comes to actions, when it comes to people is not easy. It is usually very counter-intuitive as the right choices are the hard choices and as people, we tend to take the path of least resistance. For example, just right now, I’ve received a request to answer a question on Quora. I can spend 10 minutes or more answering it which is what I do from momentum or I can invest 10 minutes into something that will actually bring me value in my life.

At the end of the day, we are the consequences of our actions. Nothing less and nothing more. And slowly but surely, we learn to take new decisions, decisions that are more likely to bring us the life that we desire than the one that we don’t want.

Best regards,
Razvan

37 / 365: A pragmatic perspective on social constructs & social dynamics.

Here’s a newsflash.

People don’t see the world as it is. They see it as they are. In extension, people don’t see you as you are. They see you, as they are. Their entire world is seen through the filters of their own self and that self is made through years, decades of experiences and feedback loops.

So it made me wonder. I’m a persuasive person. After all, I’ve became a specialist in compliance. However, I don’t have a lot of strong connections and I’m breaking them faster than I’m building new ones.

If I am to think, the people who supported me, the people who have been there for me are people who look at the world the same way as I do. It is not so much about what awesome, amazing, whatever person I am as it is the fact that they see their own projection in me and I see my own projection in them. In other words, we mirror each other.

And this works on a universal level. People tend to hang out with similar people. Folks tend to like, to have rapport with similar folks. For example, I’m a capitalist, I can’t possible have rapport with a socialist. We see the world in a different way.

I’ve thought about this today for a long, long time. I’ve had a reasonably high number of romantic relationships. The only ones that actually worked were the ones that were congruent on a deep level. Maybe we were different people but our inner operating systems, our deep values were very similar or the same. It is interesting how two people can look very different but deep down, to be lead by similar, even identical values and to connect at that level.

So it is with the amazing people in my life. The people who actually gives a fuck and who I actually care about are not based on time spent together. Some I know for days or months. Others I know for years. I can connect with someone who I’ve met today on a deep level if I am congruent with that person on a value level than with someone I know for 10 years if I’m not.

But again. People don’t see the world as it is. They see it as they are. So when you are a person’s projection of the world, when you are what that person considers to be right in the world, on an authentic level, it is impossible not to be liked. This is real charisma and this is how strong friendships and emotional connections are formed.

I am looking at the people I know and I wonder with how many I actually have what to talk about. With how many I need to fake my interest in order to appease them but at a real level, I don’t feel any actual connection. The answer is many, too many.

So based on this realization, I’ve took a simple decision. There are many people in this world. Statistically, I can find as many as I need that are congruent with my own projection of the world. Those who are already in my life but do not fit my model of the world do not deserve to be there. After all, I’m not interested in how they see the world, they are not interested in mine. All that is left in this case is a polite acceptance but no real rapport. So, it is a more productive approach to simply say good bye and find new ones.

Each time I read an article about leaving, about traveling, about starting new, I find a phrase like “the pain of losing contact with old friends” and I wonder, what pain? A person’s value relative in a subjective social construct is not based on how much time that person has been. A person is not a fine wine that gets better with time. It is based on how much value that person brings in your life.

For example, I have a female friend that I know since I was in primary school. We talk sometimes but that’s about it. She doesn’t bring value in my life, I don’t bring value in her. To be honest, we are very different people. So does it mean anything that I’ve known her for so long? No. It doesn’t. Time doesn’t mean anything.

It may have mean something in the past when building new connections was rather hard. However, in a fast moving, fast evolving social construct like ours, where you are seconds away from meeting virtually any person in the world, it doesn’t mean anything. Value added to one’s life is the only thing that really matters and the “old friendships value” is just a relic of a past where social mobility was not that important.

Or to drop the fancy language, this kind of veteran mattered when it was hard to meet new people. The easier is to meet someone, the less important is how long you’ve known a person, on a pure time basis.

For a large part of our existence as humans, we were forced to stick in one location. We did this for security mostly. Now, we have almost complete mobility. A person 10.000 miles away can bring us more security and pleasure than a person 500 meters away from you. We have options. And when we have options, the status quo is lost.

Therefore, in conclusion, I don’t see any logical reason why we should keep people in our lives for friendship sake. If it is not justified, we are one Facebook request / phone call / Whatsup chat / plane ticket away from finding and accepting someone new in our lives.