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The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life

The Gift of Life

The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life There is an art in enjoying the blessings of life, and unless we master it, we court disaster. It is a simple art. It consists in realizing that everything we are and everything we have is a gift, ultimately from the Creator and that every day of our lives the gift is renewed to us. This realization will deepen our joy in possession and it will lighten our grief in deprivation.

In assessing my own condition, I am often tempted to be dissatisfied. My mind wanders towards what I lack. Moreover, if I contrast my poverty with somebody else’s affluence, I am tempted to rebel against my destiny.

However, my mind is set at peace when I suddenly remember that whatever I have is not, in a final sense, of my own making. Nor is it mine by any right. For what did I bring with me into the world that is my home? I came into it utterly helpless. Moreover, the goals towards which I have grown and everything, which has been placed in my hands, to have and to cherish, is a gift given me freely, graciously. It was given in love, a love that I could not really earn and for which I can offer little in return. In addition, when I become aware of this, I find a new contentment.

This awareness of my blessings, and of their source, prepares me also for their inevitable surrender. Either for I know that the things I cherish will not last or that if they do, I, being mortal, will not always is here to enjoy them. A final separation awaits every relationship, no matter how tender. Someday I shall have to drop every object to which my hands now cling.

Enjoy the Roses, Taste of Their Beauty, Delight in Their Fragrance

These thoughts sadden me, but I can bear them more readily when I remember that the measure of my loss is also the measure of my privilege. Shall I rebel because my roses last so brief a time? Shall I grieve when none blossom in my garden? No! I must rather give thanks for those days I was privileged to enjoy roses, to taste of their beauty and their fragrance.

Each day of my life, my blessings are given to me anew. For the gift given me and for whatever time I am privileged to keep it, I am grateful. In addition, when I am asked to surrender my gift, I shall still know that I was richly blessed. Moreover, I shall say, “Praised be Thou, O Lord my God, that Thou didst grant me the privilege to know the gift of life.” This blessing has value: it discourages surrender and fuels religious zeal.

People have to confront regrets. Becoming matured means learning to admit what you cannot change, facing dissonant sorrows, and learning to love life as it truly happens, not as you would have it happen. When somebody attaches unkindness to unfavorable judgment, she is angry. Angry people need to criticize as an outlet for their anger. That is why you must resist unkind criticism. Unkind criticism is never part of a meaningful criticism of you. Its intent is not to teach or to help, its purpose is to penalize. Life is not supposed to be an all or nothing combat between miserableness and blissfulness.

Everyone Needs Positive Role Models: A Good Reputation Inspires Others

Good Reputation Inspires Others We know that before the Bank of New England went under, a lot of business firms withdrew their money and put them in other banks. In the meantime, recollecting that nothing was ever yet done which someone was not the first to do, and that all good things that exist are the fruits of originality, let them be humble enough to believe that there is something still left for it to attain. Reassure them that they are more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of the neediness. American designer and engineer William S. Cobb writes about emptiness is not what you expect in The Game of Go,

Emptiness refers to the absence of something that, for some reason, one expects to find—as when we say a glass, normally used to hold liquids, is empty even though it is full of air. The point is not that there is nothing there at all, but rather that what is there differs from your expectations.

All who want happiness want to eradicate distress? Life is not supposed to be a conflict at all. In addition, when it comes to happiness, well, sometimes life is just all right; sometimes it is well heeled, sometimes wonderful, sometimes tedious, sometimes unpleasant. When your day is not perfect, it is not a failure or a frightening loss. It is just another day. By this system, men lie much cooler, and it is more accordant in every respect, as well as healthier.

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Fallacies are Statements that Contain Errors of Logic or Language

A fallacy is an argument that may be persuasive but contains an error of logic or language.

A fallacy is an error in reasoning, but reasoning can be erroneous in a number of ways, so there is no definitive type of fallacy.

Greek Philosopher Aristotle The Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was the first to gather and explain the most common types of errors in reasoning, such as equivocation, begging the question, and false cause.

Aristotle wrote in On Sophistical Refutations (c. 350 BCE)

That some reasonings are genuine, while others seem to be so but are not, is evident. This happens with arguments, as also elsewhere, through a certain likeness between the genuine and the sham. For physically some people are in a vigorous condition, while others merely seem to be so by blowing and rigging themselves out as the tribesmen do their victims for sacrifice; and some people are beautiful thanks to their beauty, while others seem to be so, by dint of embellishing themselves. So it is, too, with inanimate things; for of these, too, some are really silver and others gold, while others are not and merely seem to be such to our sense; e.g. things made of litharge and tin seem to be of silver, while those made of yellow metal look golden. In the same way both reasoning and refutation are sometimes genuine, sometimes not, though inexperience may make them appear so: for inexperienced people obtain only, as it were, a distant view of these things. For reasoning rests on certain statements such that they involve necessarily the assertion of something other than what has been stated, through what has been stated: refutation is reasoning involving the contradictory of the given conclusion. Now some of them do not really achieve this, though they seem to do so for a number of reasons; and of these the most prolific and usual domain is the argument that turns upon names only. It is impossible in a discussion to bring in the actual things discussed: we use their names as symbols instead of them; and therefore we suppose that what follows in the names, follows in the things as well, just as people who calculate suppose in regard to their counters.

In the subsequent centuries of philosophical debate, new categories of fallacies were identified, and the philosophers William of Ockham and John Buridan compiled an extensive number of fallacy types, giving them Latin names such as argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people) and argumentum ad baculum (appeal to the stick, or force).

There are now more than 200 named fallacies, commonly divided between formal and informal.

  • Formal fallacies are mistakes in the logical form of an argument, independent of its semantic content. For example, in the non-fallacious form called Modus Ponens, a correct deduction can be derived from a conditional premise and a correct antecedent, regardless of the content. However, in the related formal fallacy called “affirming the consequent,” a false deduction is derived from the same correct conditional premise and a false antecedent. It follows that not every instance of the deduction would be true, even if the premise statements appeared correct individually.
  • An informal fallacy occurs when the content or organization of the premises of an argument constitutes an error in reasoning, as when an arguer changes the subject (red herring) or appeals to an inappropriate authority (argumentum ad verecundiam).
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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

Human Conscience is an Unending Stream of Continuous Thought

William James and his concept of Stream of Consciousness

Although the concept of the mind possessing a streaming consciousness can be found in early Buddhist texts, the first modern approach to the phenomenon was put forward by William James (1842-1910), one of the United States’ first recognized psychologists in his 1,200-word masterwork The Principles of Psychology in 1899.

In this book, James speaks of consciousness as being “unbroken” and states that there are no “gaps,” or as he liked to say no “intrusive alien substances,” that come along to distinguish or break up one period of consciousness from the next. For consciousness to be interrupted by gaps or intrusions, James thought, is like “expecting the eye to feel a gap of silence because it does not hear, or the ear to feel a gap of darkness because it does not see. So much,” he said, “for the gaps that are unfelt.”

Consciousness, rather than being “chopped up,” was likened instead by James to a river or stream, a process that is ever-flowing even in the event of a sudden interruption, such as an explosion or losing one’s footing and falling over. These sorts of things-a clap of thunder or the sound of a gunshot—are about as disconnected from our present thoughts as “a joint in bamboo is a break in the wood.” The thunder clap is as intrinsically a part of our continuing, unbroken consciousness as the joint is a part of the bamboo in which it grows. James believed that our cognitive experiences overlap one another and are linked by what he called “fringes,” subconscious tabs, which act as clasps that are necessary in binding our conscious thoughts together, and prevent us from living in a chaotic inner world of random, unrelated experiences.

James’s theory influenced literature and became a narrative device to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings that pass through an individual’s mind. James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) is one of the best-known examples of the stream of consciousness technique. William James wrote in Principles of Psychology (1890) that, “The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks.”

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

“I Must Be Myself” from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

'Self-Reliance and Other Essays' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0486277909) 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) was an American essayist and poet. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson was the fourth child of a Unitarian minister. Throughout his writings, Emerson is keenly concerned with the growth of the individual—the development of the individual’s powers, potentials, and capacities—an emphasis demonstrating that his thought is thoroughly centered on educational concerns.

Emerson was one of his era’s leading liberals. His prime meaning in any case is self-reliance intellectually and in everyday life. He urges us to trust ourselves, to recognize human divinity and avoid imitation. It is a simple message but all-important – and far easier said than done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance may be a short essay, but it is packed with advice which is probably more relevant today than it has ever been. At only 30 pages, Self-Reliance has the qualities of a concentrate, perhaps the very essence of personal development. Self-Reliance was one of the key pieces of writing which helped carve the ethic of American individualism, and forms part of the intellectual bedrock of today’s self-help writers. Relish what really matters in your life; the simple things like your friends and family, your hobbies and perhaps your work. Enjoy the freedoms you have and recognise the value of living a normal life outside of the public eye.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-reliance is one of the major writing that helped carve the ethnic American individualism and form the intellectual basis of today’s writers. The thought of self-reliance inspires people not to conform to social conventions but to rely on themselves. When you are working on your next task, give it your full concentration and really put the effort in to produce the best possible end result. Even if it doesn’t lead to glittering success, you should be proud of yourself for doing your very best.

Emerson’s essay begins by reconstructing volving theory of recognition and the central role it played for his concept of ‘self-reliance.’ Initially having adopted the theorizations of recognition developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, Emerson came to articulate the idea of self-reliance by way of developing an alternative approach to recognition, in which the source allocating recognition is neither society nor an inborn moral sense, but rather the transcendentally conceptualized self. Emerson’s shift towards self-recognition poses questions seldom asked in the contemporary debate on recognition.

“… Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be chaste husband of one wife,—but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs.

I must be myself.

I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.”

Full essay is here. Emerson wrote Self-Reliance in 1841—well over 160 years ago—and I believe it provides both a delightful antidote for the times in which we live and also holds up an ideal with which to guide us. Self-reliance—the ability to stand on our own two feet and live a life which is our own and not borrowed from someone else, or one which is meaningful and not superficial—is indispensable in instituting our own exclusive identity. So if, like me, you think self-reliance is important, read on.

“A man,” Emerson writes, “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” There is a certain ambiguity in this statement concerning the question of whether social approbation is categorically distinct from the “grace with the loftier deities” or linked to it by inversion. One also notices Emerson’s rhetorically combining Roman polytheism with Protestant grace, the distinction between lesser and loftier deities amounting to a kind of Protestant doctrine of two kingdoms in which two different economies of recognition are at work. Find somewhere you can think and reflect. It might be the public library or the bottom of your garden. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you spend some time thinking and don’t forget to take a notebook to jot down your thoughts. Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first.

The great philosopher of affirmation is concurrently the great teacher of dissatisfaction, even disappointment. In each of us, the energies of hope should make room for the emotion of philosophical acceptance of the world, as it must be. If you want to feel at peace go for a walk in the countryside and learn to appreciate your surroundings. Better still, do some sport as this releases serotonin which is so critical to the feeling of well-being. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a new car to make yourself feel happy; just go for a run.

Having established these fundamental dimensions of Emerson’s theory of inspiration, it is crucial to see that Emerson’s praxis of eloquence was geared at putting inspiration into effect. This he attempted to achieve by activating the reader’s imagination.

Quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.”
  • “It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.”
  • “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions.”
  • “You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers.”
  • “In this pleasing contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt it, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects.”
  • “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.”
  • 'The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0679783229) “We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”
  • “And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
  • “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
  • “Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent.”
  • “Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.”
  • “In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations.”
  • “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”
  • “Life only avails, not the having lived.”
  • “Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.”
  • “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”
  • “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
  • “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
  • “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”
  • “Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it,—else it is none”
  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”
  • “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
  • “There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.”
  • “I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.”
  • “If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.”
  • “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
  • “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
  • “Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places.”
  • “The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”3/29/2016
  • “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
  • “Character teaches above our wills.”
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How To Fail Successfully

How To Fail Successfully

If you’re going to be a skillful sailor, you have to weather some storms. We build and expand skills by testing them, and that means that failure is an essential ingredient of success. It’s the weight that we lift for one set of repetitions but not three that we should be tackling in the gym. After we succeed at one weight, we seek the next weight that will ensure our failure.

The key to mastery is failing successfully. We fail successfully when failure does not take us out of the game (risk management) and when failure sparks adaptation and innovation. If we want to become a world class skier, we can’t remain content with tackling small hills. But we also can’t start at the highest peaks. In conquering trading hills we prepare ourselves to master the mountains.

Source: Brett Steenbarger

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The Art of Stillness

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer

We all know that in our undermined lives, one of the things most undermined is ourselves. Many of us have the sensation that we are standing about two inches away from a huge canvass. It’s noisy. It’s crowded. And it’s changing every second. And that screen is our lives. It’s only by stepping back and holding still, that we can begin to see what the canvass means.

One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. I find that the best way I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly to go nowhere… just by sitting still.

In the age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.

'The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere' by Pico Iyer (ISBN 1476784728) At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

Pico Iyer in ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’

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Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits Philosophy and Wisdom Travels and Journeys

Quotations on the Inner Scorecard

Inner Scorecard Some of the greatest thinkers in history have mentioned the importance of the inner scorecard.

  • “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
    Confucius
  • “This above all, to your own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, You cannot then be false to any man.”
    William Shakespeare, from Hamlet: Act 1, scene 3, 78—82
  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
    Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address (2005)

Recommended Book: ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’ by Clayton M. Christensen provides a business-like perspective of life, not in terms of reflecting on life in terms of profit or loss, but more in terms of ideals, ethics, integrity and brutal honesty about yourself, who you are and where you are going.

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Thought Experiments

Thought Experiments

A thought experiments is a procedure of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things. Thought experiments consist of the use of hypothetical examples and counterexamples to prove or refute philosophical analyses or theories.

When contemplating imaginative suppositions, thought experiments are used to consider variations of an existing thinking or a line of reasoning. To use a thought experiment is to reason about an imagined scenario with the intention of confirming or disconfirming some hypothesis or theory.

The most interesting thought experiments are those which not only refute an existing theory but also suggest a new one which they lend rational support.

Thought experiments are employed to consider the implications of theories and to investigate the boundaries of concepts. They are well-structured exercises of the imagination in which test cases are envisioned with a view to establishing their conceptual coherence or their compatibility with some proposed theory.

Some academics passionately oppose the theoretical use of thought experiments as substituting imaginativeness for reality, but since philosophical argument is often concerned to ascertain exactly what is possible, it is hard to see how philosophy could do without thought experiments altogether.

The most famous examples of the use of thought experiments are,

For further reading, see “Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy” by Melanie Frappier, Letitia Meynell, James Robert Brown or “Thought Experiments” by R. A. Sorensen or other books on the use of throught processes.

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

Make Good Decisions Faster

Make Good Decisions Faster

Knowing how to reach clarity on a decision rapidly, particularly in critical times, is a differentiating mark of a great leader. Try this simple, yet effective approach to switch your slow deliberations with faster decision-making:

  • Be clear about your ultimate objective. Clarity is the ornament of profound thought. Instead of lumping several objectives into one decision, prioritize and determine the goal that you care the most about.
  • Be rational about data points you collect. Get the facts, minimize participants to those whose subject matter and vision are most relevant, and subtract the unnecessary details. Be transparent and avoid injecting emotion into the decision-making process.
  • Get a second opinion or, better yet, get a divergent opinion. Talking to an experienced individual and seeking complementary opinions is a great way to broaden your frame of reference, eliminate biases such as the confirmation bias, reduce judgment errors, and thus strengthen your own perspective. Also, the very act of explicating your thought process can open your mind to fresh insights.
  • Act, when you’ve reached a point of diminishing returns during the deliberation process. No amount of consideration of facts and thought can assure the “right” decision. In a 2002 interview, former Intel CEO Andy Grove noted that no leader knows enough about the future to make the optimal decision every time, but it’s better to set a clear course today and tackle problems that arise tomorrow. You should view decision-making not as an imperative to choose perfectly today, but to progress to the gateway of the next decision.
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Do MBA Students need an MBA Oath to become Decent Human Beings?

Have far has our world of business leadership fallen that MBA students have to sign an ethics pledge to be decent human beings and principled managers? Here is a short version of the MBA Oath created and undertaken by MBA Students at Harvard.

Harvard MBA

As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

After the outrage at the lack of principles and ethics amongst our business leaders following the accounting scandals and financial meltdown, financial greed, and other monetary fiascos of the last decade, there has been an explosion of ethics courses and programming in MBA student clubs, guest lectures, student conferences regarding personal and corporate responsibility and on how to regard business as a conscious component a large social community and less as a money-making enterprise headed by greedy fat cats.

Is it possible to truly teach morals and values into someone, especially MBA students? Conceivably, a business school can enlighten its students on the laws that are in place to protect businesses and individuals. However, in the end, it comes down to not just knowing the difference between right and wrong, and having the courage to choose between right and wrong.

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