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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life's lessons at 28

I've been meaning to do this for a couple of days now, and I finally got around to it. If this sounds cynical, then please direct yourself away from this blog. On the other hand, if you agree in part to some of the ideas presented here, as strong and strange as this author's opinions may be, then I invite you to add to this list. All in all, please enjoy.

1) Patience is truly a virtue, once you figure out when it is appropriate to be patient.

I was always told to wait my turn and not be a bother by clambering up on the person standing in front of me in the line, and all sorts of things to this effect. In fact, I had my parents to observe as outstanding examples of patience; whenever we went outside for dinner, or when we were checking out at the supermarket, or even when we seemed to be in an endless line for tickets at a railway station, watching other people cut in front of us. I mean, sure it's noble for us to live by our ideals. But I've learned that going to bed happy, having done the "right thing" is just nonsense. If you don't kick up a fuss, you're not going to get what you want. Sure there are lines in other countries, and people adhere to the concept of a queue most seriously, but not in India. One billion people and counting, this nation will eventually develop a system where people have to stand in line to get in line to buy something. Too common are sights of several different lines, waving furiously about like the many arms of Goddess Kali, converging at a single counter. Enough is enough and if you don't get while the getting is on, you're going to be some poor fool extolling the virtues of "when the going gets tough..."

2) Nice guys finish last. But guys who seem nice always win first place.

Similar to the previous point, if you make it a point to be nice and do the right thing, then you should be prepared to get cheated, cussed at, manhandled, and eventually killed. Maybe we should change this to read "Nice guys finish dead!" On the other hand, like the second part of this little wisdom-let, people who appear to be nice are always most successful. If you were to ask me what I think the whole professional world is heading towards, I think it's just a bunch of people trying to outdo each other in the I'm-such-a-nice-guy-you-have-to-know-me department. In fact, most people are so nice that when you ask them about how they could have stood you up, or made you wait 3 hours when they said they'd be there in 5 minutes, they look at you like you're speaking a Martian language, or as if you just appeared in front of them in little-green-man mode. Basically, stop whining that you did as you were told and start figuring out how much of an an apparently-nice-person you can be. Honestly, being truly liked should be the least of your concerns.

3) Money may not be everything, but it has an infinite stranglehold on the life you lead.

When Siddhartha Gautama identified possession as the cause of suffering, he did the world a huge favor. However, what he should have counted on was the essential lack of gratitude that the majority of all human beings exhibit. No one cares that they suffer because they want what is ultimately a finite resource. They only want to get as much of this as they can so that they don't have to suffer like everybody else. In fact, being an idealist and a fool, I have always looked at identifying a world in which this sort of behaviour is not necessary to survive. In fact, I was convinced that this sort of world existed. Perhaps it still does, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the white elephant, or the flying pig; it exists in theory and it's a lovely little fairytale.

4) It takes two people to get annoyed: one to do the annoying, and the other person to be willing to be annoyed.

I have started to use several variations of this quote in my life. I've come to believe this strongly, more so because of a recent, failed relationship that taught me that no matter how patient I could be, there was always a limit and that I could always be sure of getting pushed to this limit, whether I liked it or not. Still, this interpretation detracts from the overall lesson. The idea behind this particular point was that it is still possible to be self-aware enough to catch yourself before you fall prey to your own petty frustrations. Why is it important not to fall victim to this? Because people are always trying to catch you off guard and when they do, you've got a whole lot of other nonsense to deal with.

5) Unless you do what you've said you're going to do, you're always going to be "threatening" to do it.

Stop crying wolf. It gets annoying after the first couple of times. That's about it for this one.

6) Never mistake a smile for happiness or agreement.

Some of the happiest people I've met have either been truly miserable and killed themselves, or have been the first to turn the tables on me with a, "When did I ever say that?" Either way, a smile is never to be trusted, if nothing else because it only takes you 17 muscles to smile and 40 to frown. Think about it, the person who's frowning is making more of an effort to indicate displeasure, while the smiling sonofagun is just taking you for a ride with less than half the effort, and none of the guilt.

7) It is better to be respected than to be feared.

But it is a lot easier to be feared, and if you can manage to maintain that, or at least to turn this fear into respect then you're well on your way to being a true leader of men. But seeing as to how this is a Herculean task, I would say that it's better to be feared because the worst that can happen is people will try and get rid of you...for good. In this crazy world, some may actually look upon that as a boon of some kind. Fear goes a long way, while respect is directly proportional to the size of your wallet.

8) Never say never, especially not twice in the same sentence.

If you haven't ever done something because you never wanted to then the only thing you can be sure of is that at some point someone is going to force you to do it. Hey, I speak from personal experience, being the "negative influence" in many a life.

9) If you think you know someone, then you don't.

Knowing a person is a myth. In this day and age, each person is really a collection of people. With mass schizophrenia around, you never know what a person is like until you spend every waking moment with them. And even after all this, please don't be too sure that you know this person.

10) Living like today's your last day on Earth can burn you out.

All this "carpe diem" nonsense is just a cheap way for people who have all the money in the world to sit back and watch the rest of us make fools of ourselves. In fact, this is probably reality TV at it's best, even before TV was invented! If you believe in this and you live your life like this, then please be prepared to face the indomitable 80-20 rule. You are part of the 80 percent who live life in such a frenzy, always hoping to break into the 20 percent who've got it made. But the bad news is, the 20-percent club is a private party, so stop wasting your time. Take it easy, and learn to let go of ambition. It's a bad word at best, and you don't want to be the next moron who "died trying."

11) If you believe that ultimately your life doesn't matter, you're right. If you live like it doesn't matter, you're wrong.

Your life and what you want from it should always be at the top of your list of things to fulfill. Everyone has her or his own list with the same agenda, so if you stop to pick someone who stumbled along the way, then you're doing yourself a great disservice and putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. Why in the world would you do something like this? Your life does matter. Find a purpose and go for it. Who cares what it is. It could be to make the world a better place, or to make so much money that you don't know what to do with all of it. If you end up ruling the world then you only have your undying determination and everyone else's idiocy to thank for it. They let you get to this position, so the least you can do is remind them what idiots they've been as long and as often as you can.

12) No two people ever hear the same sentence and think the same thing.

Being in the communication skills training field, I've learned the hard way that people always hear what is being said in whatever way they want to hear it. You can speak with perfect grammar and diction, but you will always frustrate yourself if you try and figure out why people don't listen to you. I think they try to, but a certain feature of human evolution has ensured that selective hearing is the order of the day. It's almost like a curse of the Tower of Babel, or something along these lines. So, if you want someone to agree with your point of view, learn to say the same thing in ten or twenty different ways. Even the most unmoving people will trip up with the fifteenth or sixteenth variant and end up saying "yes" when what they really wanted to say was "no."

13) If you don't know why you're going to say what you're going to say, then don't open your mouth.

I'm reminded me of a zen koan that goes, "In walking just walk. In sitting just sit. Above all, don't wobble." More damage has been done on this Earth by people who should have kept their mouths shut, but will never admit that it was their fault; true pioneers of Lesson 19, coming up. If you think you have something to say, think about it, then think about it some more before you finally say it. Too many people feel the need to open their mouths and add to the white noise of humanity. Why? Like we need more of it?

14) The only thing standing in your way is yourself.

Several similar quotes have been identified, but it's a lesson that you have to learn earlier on in life. Old fogies like me are still battling with this, and an inane sense of right and wrong. Why? Because you can't teach a Malayalee dog new tricks!

15) No one cares what you want to do with your life unless it conforms to the plans that they have for you.

It's not just your parents, but everyone around you seems to have an idea about what you should be doing, and how you will be so much more successful if you did as they suggested. Well, the question I've always asked is, if they seem to have the answers, what the hell are they doing working their dead-end jobs and living in their port-a-potty homes? How are they claiming to be epitomes of success? You couldn't even fool a blind man with that one!

16) A long life in this day and age is a terrible thing to wish for.

With all the nonsense happening in the world today, it's just too bad that people want to live forever. What the hell for? You want to see more wars and famine and death and destruction? Don't you get enough of this on TV already? And if this doesn't do it for you, what about all the smog and pollution and "Global warming?" I always knew human beings were sick and twisted, but this is really the heights.

17) It's never your fault, and it never will be. Make sure of it!

If something goes wrong and you're in the middle of it, just stick to your guns and blame everyone else. You're never going to get out alive if you admit you made a mistake. This may have worked three hundred years ago, but nowadays you can be assured to take the beating for the rest of the team if you own up. Ever notice how no one else owns up? See how they manage to get by unscathed? Let that be a lesson then.

18) The first rule in any rule book should be that there aren't any rules. The second rule should be that rules are meant to be broken. And if you need a third rule then you're missing the point.

Need I say anymore?
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