Late (or a Post About Cause and Effect)

Today I was late for work again. For three minutes that is.

You may ask why I’m writing on an event as insignificant as this. Hold on a moment I don’t intend this to be a whining or rant post, but a post that you can learn from.

What can we learn about me being late you may ask? Hmmm… let’s learn (or contemplate) about something called “Cause and Effect.”

In some metaphyical traditions as well as science itself, cause and effect is a commonly accepted law of the universe. That is for every cause there is an effect, and for every effect there is cause.

Something to contemplate about, though, is:

  1. A cause may have multiple effects.
    For example, going to the gym to train with weights can be a cause for you to…
    (A) Gain more muscle.
    (B) Lose more fat.
    (C) Become more attractive to opposite sex.
    (D) Be able to wear again your old overgrown clothes.
  2. An effect may have multiple causes.
    Going back to me being late at work I was late for some factors I can think of.
    (A) I didn’t get up in bed early enough.
    (B) I could have skipped taking a bath.
    (C) I could have started walking from the public transportation (Jeepney in our country) when I sensed traffic isn’t moving.
    (D) The traffic. (I know it’s like blaming the traffic, but no one could deny that it was a valid cause.)

  3. There is a chain of causes and effects.
    Meaning that an effect can in turn become a cause for another event, and so on.
    For example: A mother taught her children to be kind to people (cause 1). Her children in turn became kind to other people (effect 1 – cause 2), and because of that those people who were treated with kindness felt good (effect 2 – cause 3…). It could go on and on, like those people who were treated with kindness in turn became kind to other people, too.

There are lots of more to contemplate on the law of Cause and Effect, that I can write another post for it in the future. For now, though, it would be nice to contemplate on these things, even for a moment.

Summary

The law of Cause and Effect is for real, and remember (A) A Cause can have multiple effects; (B) an effect multiple causes; (C) there is chain or link of causes and effects.

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Technology Has Changed… Self-Help Advice Should Follow

If you’re familiar with old school self-help authors (90s and earlier) you’ll hear the usual (and overused) advice, ‘Read books.’ Being an avid book reader I actually support that kind of advice.

But times have changed. Besides books there are lots of learning materials out there. Blogs, youtube videos, podcasts, online courses, etc. We’re not limited to reading books anymore.

If you’re a child of the internet like me, you probably already know all of those stuff and more. So why I am stating the obvious you may ask?

The reason is I want to change the belief that a person can only get quality learning through books. Other mediums are just as effective (or more).

For example, I learn better technical materials watching video tutorials compared to books. While some people like to learn from podcasts while driving or commuting. To each to his own.

So the next time someone asks, “How many books have you read this year?” or “What book are you currently reading?” You can answer with, “I just watched this awesome video on making ice-cream last week,” or “I listened to Engineer Bob’s podcast yesterday.”

That person might give you a weird look, but what’s important is you have learned something, the mode of teaching is a lot less relevant.

The Parable of the Key

I thought of this parable as a common situation in life:

A man arrived into a new town where he was promised a new house. Another man welcomed him and gave him the key for his new house. 

He tried using the key to open the door to his house but it didn’t work.

The second man said, “Keep trying brother. It would work soon enough.” The encouraging words of the second man kept the first man trying to use the key to open his new house.

A little later, a third man arrived and said, “Here brother, try this key. It might work.”

As the man tried to reach for the new key given by the new man, the second man interrupted and said, “No. That key won’t work. The key you’re holding is the real key that will open your house.”

Being more familiar with the second man, the man who’s trying to open his house followed his advice, ignoring the third man.

We don’t know for sure if the third man’s key will work or not. On the other hand, the first man key’s might eventually work, but so
far it didn’t.

You be the one to interpret this parable 🙂

Winning and Losing Streaks

I’m a player of League of Legends. It’s an online game where a group of five players try to beat the other team.

Currently, I don’t have a clan so I get to play with random players selected by the game’s matchmaking system.

But I’m not going to talk about that’s game mechanics or my opinions about it. I’m here to talk about winning and losing streaks.

We can explain how winning and losing streaks happen in various ways:

  1. Psychological advantage/disadvantage
    They say nothing succeeds like success, which essentially means that winners have a psychological edge over others who have less or no experience on winning.

    A player’s psychology is important because our thoughts determines our actions, and our actions lead to the results we get. Results that can be positive or not.

    We can take advantage of this principle by winning at small tings first before we tackle more difficult challenges. In that way we can build our winning psyche.

  2. Actual material or resource advantage/disadvantage
    There’s this concept known as snowballing where advantages are built on top of another. Think of a snowball that gets bigger as it rolls on the ground.

    That’s the reason why it’s easier for entrepreneurs that have money to make more money. Money can be used to buy resources that’s necessary in starting and keeping a business going.

    Knowing this, we have to keep in mind that small things matter because they eventually lead to big results.

  3. Crowd/peer support or putdowns
    This is somewhat related to no. 1,  but the former is all about how we view our self. What I’m going to talk about here is how other people view us.

    Psychology has a concept known as the Pygmalion effect. Basically it states that expectations of other people affect how one person performs.

    Just think who is more likely to win, a team that is cheered upon by the crowd or a team that receives only ‘boos.’

    So, if we want to increase our chances of winning better find a supportive crowd, or if you have no choice but to deal with an unsupportive one — just ignore them. 

  4. Winners feel better physically, which leads to better performance
    Can you remember a time when you won? How did you feel? Aren’t you full of energy and vigor?

    Losers on the other hand feel weaker, even though they haven’t really exerted themselves.

    Of course, we can condition ourselves physically that we can continue to go on even after disappointments and setbacks, but let’s face it, we’re doing it to win. That feeling of winning is so pleasurable, the reason why we endure hardships. 

  5. The other person/team is simply better
    In competition we like to think that we’re the best and we can defeat anyone who competes with us, but the reality is that there are people who are more experienced and skillful than us. The reason they are more likely to win.

    In those circumstances, let’s put on a good fight, try to learn as much as possible, and who knows we might actually win. Ever heard of upsets in sports?

    And, yes, we must become better. So next time we’ll be the one with the definite advantage.

The possible explanations above are my own. There might be a lot more to winning and losing streaks than we currently know.

Sometimes, there simply seems to be a kind of cycle or rhythm on things. It’s like an invisible force, a force that once we know, we can control it to our advantage.

But until then, let’s keep on playing.  🙂

It’s Okay to Be Selfish Sometimes

There was an incident in my life that I would never forget.

Some of you who are more adventurous might view what I would about to narrate as simplistic or normal. But that event itself changed the way I viewed the world — although not until many years after the event.

The story

I just came back to school after a while. Probably because of fever, but I’m not sure.

On that day my teacher gave me the raw materials to build an ornament which resembles a lamp.

As I was constructing the ornament, some of my classmates, who were not usually kind, approached me in a friendly manner to ask for some materials.

Being the naive kid I was back then, and not knowing how much material it takes to build the finished project, I gave some of my materials to my begging classmates.

As I would recall, I even heard our teacher say something like (translated to English): “You’ve wasted your materials yesterday, and now you’re asking Michael for some spare.”

Giving some (or most) of my materials away, I wasn’t able to finish my ornament. While the classmates who asked me for my materials, finished their project.

Kind of unfair, isn’t it?

First lesson to be learned

As the title of the post says, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. Why? The reason is that there are times when other people will put their needs first before yours, even if it is to your disadvantage.

What if I didn’t gave my materials away, and as a result finished my project?

Sure, they may call me greedy or something, but to think of it isn’t justified.

To make an analogy, it’s like two guys who traveled the desert with one water bottle each. The first guy used his water wisely, while the second guy was wasteful of his water.

During their journey, the second guy asked the first guy for some of his water (which he really needs).

The first guy said: “You already drank a lot, while I, who drank very little might need my water later.”

The second guy called the first guy greedy, but knowing better the first guy wasn’t bothered at all.

Eventually they reached town and drank all the water they could have.

The thing is, if the first guy gave his water away, he could have suffered from dehydration, but he didn’t, because he was wise.

Second lesson to be learned

Have you noticed that my teacher didn’t even stopped my classmates, even if she somewhat knew that by giving away my materials, I wouldn’t be able to finish my project.

Learning from that, we must not expect other people to look after us (even if it is their duty).

I was still very young back then, so I didn’t know. Also, we’re trained to be obedient during that time.

Being obedient is not always good, but that needs another post….

Summary of Lessons

Lesson 1: It’s okay to be selfish sometimes.
Lesson 2: We must look after ourselves.

Excuse Me, Excuses

No More Excuses

Do you remember a time when you’re supposed to do something but eventually you talked yourself into not doing it?

In that case you have successfully come up with excuses.

I wasn’t supposed to use the word “successfully” since inventing excuses will most likely won’t lead to success. But I can’t think of a better word.

Hey! Wait a minute….

Did I just come up with an excuse right there? Can you see how it’s so easy for us to come up with excuses?

So… before moving on, let’s rewrite the sentence above without using the word “successfully.” Here it goes:

In that case you have successfully come up with excuses.

Whatever you have told yourself back then, those are just excuses.

(Right on. Using the word just to describe excuses minimizes its significance.)

Moving on….

Why do we make excuses?

Here are some reasons:

  1. We think it’s impossible.
    Before the 1950s, when Roger Bannister was able to run a mile in less than four minutes, people think it was impossible.

    But when he did it, not long after, a lot of runners was able to do the feat that was previously thought of as impossible.

    Seeing Roger Bannister did what’s supposed to be impossible instantly removed the limiting belief the other runners had.

  2. We think it’s beyond our current capability.
    It might be true — for now. The thing is, if we don’t try, how will we know what our capabilities are?

    Eventually we have to start doing and stop procrastinating. Might as well do it as soon as possible because we can’t take back time.

  3. We think that it’s not worth it.
    Maybe. Maybe not. But how are we suppose to know if we don’t do it in the first place?

    For instance, there had been times when I don’t feel like going to the gym, but I force myself to anyway. Afterwards, I feel good about what I did. (Add to that the wonderful effect of endorphins to our body.)

    If I haven’t gone to the gym, I can simply dismiss it by saying things like, “I can go tomorrow,” or “It’s just one session, one session,” when what I should be saying is: “Stop making excuses and just do it!”

How can we overcome excuses?

Method 1: Just Do it.
The most simple and direct way as you have read above is by just doing the thing we’re supposed to do.

Just Do it. Don’t over-analyze. After a while, by just doing it, you’ll begin to become engaged in the task. That’s the power of momentum.

Method 2: Counter excuses with reasons.
When we create excuses, we’re using our creativity in an unproductive manner. Why not use our creativity positively. Let’s come up with reasons.

For instance, let’s think of a simple task, such as cleaning our room. We can come up with excuses not to clean it, such as:

  • I’m the only one who sees my room.
  • In a few days it will be all messed up again anyway.
  • It’s a waste of time. I’d rather surf the net.

Let’s forget about those excuses, and come up with reasons why:

  • A clean room looks nice and makes me feel better.
  • If a relative or friend visits me in my room, she won’t be disappointed.
  • Eventually I have to clean it, so might as well do it now while I’m not busy.

Remember: When you’re making excuses, you’re focusing on the negatives. When you’re making reasons, you’re focusing on the positives. Be positive.

Summary

It’s easy for us to create excuses. When we come up with excuses more often than not we don’t take appropriate action.

We can fight excuses firstly by just doing the task that we’re supposed to do without any rationalizing, and secondly by countering those excuses with reasons why we should (or must) do it and focusing our attention on those reasons.

Photo credit: Fabio Venni