August 25, 2014

The greatest salesman in the world by Og Mandino

The greatest salesman in the world by Og Mandino

You can change your life with the priceless wisdom the priceless wisdom of ten ancient scrolls handed down for thousand years.

[Master gives 10 golden laws to his disciple for great success in life]

1. I will form good habits and become their slave.
Today I am born new. Failure no longer will but my payment for struggle. In truth the difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Thus the first law I will obey, which preceded all other is - I will form good habits and become their slave.

2. I will greet this day with love in my heart.
For this is the greatest secret of success in all ventures. I will love the sun for it warms my bones; yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit. I will love the darkness doe it shows me the stars. I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart; yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul. I will acknowledge rewards for they are due; yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.

3. I will persist until I succeed.
I was not delivered unto this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by
my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain,
for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny

4. I am nature’s greatest miracle.
I am a unique creature of nature. I am rare, and there are values in all rarity; therefore, I am valuable. I am the end product of thousands of years of evolution; therefore I am better equipped in both mind and body than all the emperors and wise men who preceded me.

5. I will live this day as if it is my last.
I have but one life and life is naught but a measurement of time. When I waste one I destroy the other. If I waste today I destroy the last page of my life. Therefore each hour of this day will I cherish for it can never return. It cannot be banked today to be withdrawn on the morrow.

6. Today I will be master of my emotions
Weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions; strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts. Each day, when I awaken, I will follow this plan of battle before I am captured by the forces of sadness, self-pity and failure...

• If I become overconfident, I will recall my failures.
• If I overindulge, I will think of past hungers.
• If I feel complacency, I will remember my competition.
• If I enjoy moments of greatness, I will remember moments of shame.
• If I feel all-powerful, I will try to stop the wind.
• If I attain great wealth, I will remember one unfed mouth.
• If I become overly proud, I will remember a moment of weakness.
• If I feel my skill is unmatched, I will look at the stars.

7. I will laugh at the world.
I will smile and my digestion will improve; I will chuckle and my burdens will be lightened; I will laugh and my life will be lengthened for this is the great secret of long life and now it is mine

8. Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.
I will commit not the terrible crime of aiming too low.
I will do the work that a failure will not do.
I will always let my reach exceed my grasp.
I will never be content with my performance in the market.
I will always raise my goals as soon as they are attained.
I will always strive to make the next hour better than this one.
I will always announce my goals to the world.

9. I will act now
My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible. All are of no value unless they are followed by action. I will act now.

10. I will pray for guidance
I ask not for gold or garments or even opportunities equal to my ability; instead, guide me so that I may capture ability equal to my opportunities.

August 17, 2014

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar
Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment.

We all know that change is hard. Much research suggests that learning new tricks, adopting new behaviors or breaking old habits may be harder than we even realize and that most attempts at change, whether by individuals or organizations fail. In their book ‘The power of Full engagement’ Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz provide a different way of thinking about change: they suggest that instead of focusing on cultivating self-discipline as a means toward change, we need to introduce rituals. According to Loehr and Schwarts, ‘building rituals requires defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times - motivated by deeply held values”. (According to William James, it takes 21 days to form a new habit)

In research done by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, those who kept a daily gratitude journal - writing down at least five things for which they were grateful - enjoyed higher levels of emotional and physical well-being.

The gravity of this error is revealed in an old episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ in which a ruthless criminal, killed while running from the police, is greeted by an angel sent to grant his every wish. The man, fully aware of his life of crime, cannot believe that he is in heaven. He is initially baffled but then accepts his good fortune and begins to list his desires: he asks for his favorite food and it is served to him; he asks for beautiful women and they appear. life (after death), it seems could not be better.

However, as time goes by, the pleasure he derives from continuous indulgence begins to diminish; the effortless of his existence becomes tiresome. He asks the angel for some work that will challenge him and is told that in his place he can get whatever he wants - except the change to work for the things he receives. Without any challenge, the criminal becomes increasingly frustrated. Finally, in utter desperation, he says to the angel that he wants to get out, to go to ‘the other place’. The criminal, assuming that he is in heaven, wants to go to hell. The camera zooms in on the angel as his delicate face turns devious and threatening,. With the ominous laughter of the devil, he says, ‘This 1s the other place’.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose work focus on the state of peak performance and peak experience, claims that ‘the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. As John Gardner, former US secretary of health, education and welfare, points out, “We are designed for the climb, not for taking our ease, either in the valley or at the summit”.

Students who truly love learning for instance, derive present benefit from the pleasure they take in discovering new ideas and future benefit from the ways in which those ideas will prepare them for their careers. Those who work at something they love - be it in business, medicine or art - can progress in their career while enjoying the journey.

Research by the likes of Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Richard Davidson reveals the profound effects of regular mediation.

In a review of the research on well-being, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky , Laura King and Ed Diener note, “Numerous studies show that happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance and health’. The research illustrates that the relationship between happiness and success is reciprocal: not only can success contribute to happiness, but happiness also leads to more success.

Emotion cause motion, they provide a motive that drives our action. The very language we use suggests an essential truth - that emotion, motion and motivation are intimately linked.

According to French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne, “The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to live with purpose”.  Having a purpose, a goal that provides a sense of direction, imbues our individual actions with meaning - and from experiencing life as a collection of disjointed pieces, we begin to experience it as a masterpiece. An overarching purpose can unify individual activities, just like overarching theme of a symphony unifies the individual notes. In and of itself, a note does not amount to much, but it becomes significant, and beautiful - when part of a common theme, a common purpose.

When thinking about the most meaningful life for ourselves, we must also consider our potential and how to make full use of our capacities. While a cow might seem content with a life spent grazing in the pasture, we cannot be happy living simply to gratify our physical desires. Our inborn potential as humans dictates that we do more, that we utilize our full capacities. “The happiness that is genuinely satisfying” writes the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties and the fullest realization of the world in which we live”.

The question is ‘what pursuit would challenge you and fulfill your potential?

My theory of happiness on the works of Freud as well as Frankl. Freud’s pleasure principle says that we are fundamentally driven by the instinctual need for pleasure. Frankl argues that we are motivated by a will to meaning rather than by a will to pleasure - he says that ‘striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man’. In the context of finding happiness, there is some truth in both Freud’s and Frankl’s theories. We need to gratify both the will for pleasure and the will for meaning if we are to lead a fulfilling, happy life. Happiness presupposes our having to overcome obstacles. In the words of Frankl, ‘what man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him’.

We should also remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted, reminds us to be grateful for all the large and small pleasures in our lives. Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure.

Most of us do not take the time to ask ourselves the question of questions - because we are too busy. As Thoreau says, however, ‘Life is too short to be in a hurry’. If we are always on the go, we are reacting to the exigencies of day-to-day life rather than allowing ourselves the space to create a happy life. Abraham Maslow maintains that a person ‘cannot choose wisely for a life he dares to listen to himself, his own self, at each moment in life’.

In making decisions and judgments, we also tend to focus on the material rather than paying heed to the emotional because those things that are quantifiable lend themselves more easily to assessment and evaluation. We value the measurable (material wealth and prestige) over the unmeasurable (emotions and meaning). In our material world, we worship material girls and boys, Wealthy people are revered by virtue of their material possession, as if net-worth in an apt measure for how worthy a person is. As Laurence G. Boldt says in ‘Zen and the art of making living’, ‘society tells us the only thing that matters is matter - the only things that count are the things that can be counted’. The monetary worth of a house is questionable, the feelings we attach to our home are not. Shakespeare’s Hamlet may cost $10 in the bookstore; what it means to us cannot be measured.

People who set goals are more likely to succeed than people who do not. Setting a goal is about making a commitment in words, and words have the power to create a better future. William H Hurry, a Scottish mountaineer, wrote in ‘The Scottish Himalayan Expedition about the benefits of throwing one’s knapsack over a brick wall:

‘Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sort of things occur to help one that could not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic and power in it’.

The emphasis in my approach is not so much on attaining goals as it is on having them. In his article, “Positive Affectivity’, psychologist David Watson underscores the value of the journey” ‘Contemporary researches emphasis that it is not the process of striving after goals - rather than goal attainment per se - that is crucial for happiness and positive affectivity’. The primary purpose of having a goal - a future purpose - is to enhance enjoyment of the present. Goals are means, not just ends. For sustained happiness we need to change the expectations we have of our goals: rather than perceiving them as ends(expecting that their attainment will make us happy), we need to see them as means(recognizing that they can enhance the pleasure we take in the journey).

Summarizing the research on goals and happiness, Kennan Sheldon and his colleagues write, “People seeking greater well being would be well advised to focus on the pursuit of (a) goals involving growth, connection and contribution rather than goals involving money, beauty and popularity and (b) goals that are interesting and personally important to them rather than goals they feel forced or pressured to pursue”.

The process of knowing and being know is potentially never-ending as there is always more that can be revealed , always more that can be discovered. The relationship, therefore, is far more likely to remain interesting, exciting, stimulating. Being together - whether talking over a coffee, caring for children or making love - becomes so much more meaningful and pleasurable when our focus shifts from validation to knowing and being known. Many people believe that the key to a successful relationship is finding the right partner. In fact, however, the most important and challenging component of a happy relationship is not finding the one right person - I don’t believe that there is just one right person for each of us - but rather cultivating the one chosen relationship.

In many romantic movies, toward the end of the movie, the lovers get together, kiss passionately and then live happily ever after - or so we assume. The problem is that movies end where love begins. It is the living happily ever after that poses the greatest challenge; it is after the sun sets that difficulties often rise. We cultivate intimacy by knowing and being known. We can then deepen our intimacy by acting on our knowledge of one another - engaging in activities that are meaningful and pleasurable to ourselves as well as to our partner. Over time, as we get to know one another and spend time together engaged in activities that we care about most, we build a foundation that we can weather inevitable storms as well as provide fertile ground for love and happiness to blossom.

Other books mentioned in the book:

Leading change by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

The six pillars of self-esteem by Branden Nathaniel

Self-Efficacy: The excercise of control by W.H. Freeman and Company

Finding Flows: The psychology of engagement with everyday life by Csikszentmihalyi.

August 1, 2014

How should we live by Roman Krznaric

How should we live by Roman Krznaric
Great Ideas from the past for everyday life.

The man immortalized as St. Valentine would be shocked to discover that he has become the patron saint of romantic love. He was executed for his Christian faith in the 3rd century. A feast in his name was first held in 496 and for most of the next millennium he was venerated for having the power to heal the sick and crippled. He had nothing to do with romantic until 1382, when Chaucer wrote a poem describing Valentine day, celebrated each February, as a time when birds and people - would choose their mates.

Most of us have experienced both the pleasure and sorrows of love. We might remember the burning desire and shared rapture of a first affair, or have taken comfort in the security of a long-term relationship.

The six Varieties of Love:
Contemporary coffee culture has developed a sophisticated vocabulary to describe the many options for getting a daily caffeine fix - cappuccino, espresso, flat white, Americano, macchiato & mocha. The ancient Greeks distinguishing six different kinds of love.

Cupid is the Roman version of Eros, the Greek god of love and fertility. It is viewed as dangerous, fiery and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and posses you. “Desire doubled love, love doubled is madness” said Prodicus, a philosopher from the 5th century BCE.

The next type of love is known as paiderastia - often associated with homosexuality, esp. the love of older men for adolescents, a practice prevalent in the 5th-6th century.

Philia is another variety of love - usually translated as ‘friendship - was considered far more virtuous than the base sexuality of eros.

Scholars commonly use the Latin word ludus to describe this form of love, which concerns the playful affection between children or casual lovers. We see ludus today when youngsters play ‘spin the bottle’ which provides the prospect of a first, nerve-wracking kiss.  Our most exuberant lucid moments often take place on the dance floor, where physical proximity to others - often strangers - offers a playful sexualized encounter that acts as a substitute for sex itself. One of the reasons Latin American dances such as salsa and tango have become so popular in Europe and North America is that they are suffused with this lucid quality that many people feel lacking in their lives.

In 1950s the psychologist Erich Fromm made a distinction between ‘falling in love’ and ‘standing in love’: he said we expend too much energy on the falling and should focus more on the standing, which is primarily about giving love rather than receiving it. Pragma is at the core of this idea of standing in love.

When pragma required giving to your partner, agape or self-less love was a much more radical ideal. This was an ancient Greek love defined by its lack of exclusiveness: it was to be extended altruistically to all human beings, whether they were a member of a family or a stranger from a distant city-state.

A final love known to the Greeks was philautia or self-love, which is first glance, seems the opposite of agape - a rival that would destroy it. The wise Greeks, however, noticed that it came in two forms. There was a negative kind of self-love, which was a selfish hunger to gain personal pleasures, money and public honors, far beyond your fair share. Luckily Aristotle had spotted a more positive version of self-lover, one that enhanced our wider capacity to love. ‘All friendly feelings for others are extensions of a man’s feeling for himself’.

“When you marry you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost.”.

Romantic love was born towards the end of the first millennium in the stories, poetry and music of early medieval Persia. its central features can be found in ‘The Arabian Nights’, a collection of Middle Eastern folks tales dating from around the 10the century, told night after night by the Princess Scheherazade to her new husband, the hot-tempered Sultan Shahryar, who had a habit of executing his virgin brides.

Ibn Hazm’s book was part of a wider Arab literature on love and sexuality, which popularized erotic practices such as the sensuous kiss on the mouth, hardly known in Europe during Middle Ages. the author of the North African sex manual ‘the perfumed Garden’ wisely advised that ‘A moist kiss is better than a hasty coitus 9sexual intercourse)’.

The ideology of ‘cortezia’ appeared in books such as ‘The Romance Of the Rose’, a 13th century French bestseller about a courtier attempting to woo his lady, which may be one of the sources of the custom of giving roses as a gift of love.

An even greater peculiarity of cortezia was the presence of agape, the selfless Christian love for strangers. This was best illustrated by the legend of St. George and the Dragon, which became popular in the 13th century. An evil, plague-infested dragon makes its nest at a spring that provides water for a nearby city. The king’s daughter is offered as a sacrifice to the dragon so the citizens can access the spring. Suddenly along comes St. George, who looks the dragon in the eye, makes the sign of the holy cross and charges towards the beast, giving it a near-fatal wound with his lance. Accompanied by the liberated princess, St. George then leads the limping dragon back to the city on a leash, where he slaughters it before the eyes of the people. In honor of this heroic deed, the grateful citizens abandon their paganism and converted to Christianity.

The consumerist ethos infiltrating public culture also encouraged us to treat finding a lover as a form of shopping, a point first made in the 1950s when Erich Fromm wrote that two people ‘fall in love when they have found the best object available in the market’. There is a danger, claim some psychologists that we may seek to maximize the quality of our romantic purchases rather than accept imperfections and end up treating our partners almost like material possessions that we can discard at will.

The first lesson from history is to shift our expectations. We have to abandon the idea of perfection - of finding someone who meets all the criteria on our amorous wish list. The second lesson is to understand that lover has its own chronology, with the different varieties of love coming and going throughout the course of a relationship. The challenge before us is to adopt a new vocabulary of love inspired by the ancient Greeks, and let our knowledge of its many forms permeate our minds, infuse our conversations and guide our actions.


If you have ever experienced stony silences at a family dinner, you are in good historical company. The Rule of St. Benedict, which has guided the life of Benedictines and other monasteries. since the sixth century, asks its followers to avoid evil words and spend much of the day, including meals in silence. Dinner is a time for listening to readings from uplifting spiritual texts rather than having conversations, even about God. This explains why medieval villagers spoke little while eating.

On the other hand, silence is as much a matter of geography as religion. ‘Scandinavians are of the opinion that you only speak when you have something to say’ according to communication experts and talkativeness is associated with being egotistical and unreliable,

The 18th century was the era of clever conversations. It was followed in the 19th by the era of hidden emotions. This began with the rise of the Romantic Movement, which offered great conversational promise. Poets such as Coleridge and Keats willingly bared their tortured souls and unrequited love to the world. But they mostly did so on paper. During the Victorian era a stark divide arose between how men and women expressed themselves, esp. amongst the British middle and upper classes. Men came to prize cool rationality and emotional reserve, while women were more likely to display their inner thoughts and feelings and showed a greater capacity for sympathetic listening. Marriage guides advised wives not to burden their husbands with their personal troubles, while children were encouraged to repress their feelings and ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ - an idiom originating in a 19th century nursery poem.

For possibilities to become realities, we need to find ways of overcoming our fears and lack of self-confidence, which may be holding us back from taking action. What if I make the wrong choice? Do I really have the skills to be successful? Can I take the financial risk of changing jobs? Won’t I be wasting all those years I spent getting to where I am now? These are many ways to approach such fears and begin on a pathway towards change. 19th century writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. the more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled to torn? What if you do fail and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble?”.

We now occupy a hyper-visual society. Sight has increasingly become the default filter for our sensory experiences and our perceptions of sound and scent may be more dulled than at any other moment in Western history. The result is not only that most of us fail to develop the sensory sophistication at our biological realities of surface impressions.

The inheritance of belief:

To the question, ‘Why do people believe in God?, the best answer remains: ‘Because they have been taught to believe in God... The vast majority of believers have been born into whatever tradition they now follow... Most individuals learn their religion in childhood as a specific identity, within a specific community”.

A typical right-brain exercise asked you to sketch a tree by focusing on drawing the ‘negative’ spaces between the branches rather than the branches themselves in order to circumvent the conventional idea of what a branch is supposed to look like. Another activity called ‘Morning Pages’ developed by Julia Cameron, suggested you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness each morning by hand, which would ride your mind of rational overload and free it up for creative endeavors.

The tragedy of this growing movement in creativity was that by the 1990s it had been largely appropriated by the commercial world. Books and courses were increasingly designed for business sector, and aimed at helping organizations thrive, rather than the individuals with them. best-selling creativity gurus became highly paid consultant to multinationals, applying their ideas about mind maps and thinking hats to foster;’business innovations.

All artistic genres have their conventions, ‘rules of the game’ which shape subject matter, style and technique. Traditional Chinese painting contains no shadow and gives much greater prominence to natural landscape than Western art. Ancient Egyptian wall painting displayed virtually no innovations in visual representation for 3,000 years: the head and legs were invariable in profile, with the eyes and chest portrayed frontally. Classical Greek sculpture focused on the image of man with scant interest shown in the female figure.

We might live our lives in a thousand different ways. And the civilizations of the past enable us to recognize that our habitual ways of loving, working, creating and dying are not the only options before us. We need only open the wonder-box of history and look inside to see new surprising possibilities for the art of living. Let them spark our curiosity, captivate our imaginations and inspire our actions.