What are random thoughts about life ?

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. –  Earl Nightingale

This post is compiled by my tribe member or mentor – Vishal @ http://www.safalniveshak.com

1. Skip the rush lane

Rushing is rarely worth it. Life is too short to be wasted in the fast lane and is better enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I can vouch for that, from the experience of running in the fast lane during the first eight years of my career and the slow lane during the next seven.

Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, has listed the trappings of a lot of wealth, stuff like “a golden roof, purple clothes, marble floors.” He has described the life of someone who has been blessed mightily by fate and fortune as having imposing statues, the most brilliant art, teams of servants.

“What does having all these things teach?” Seneca asks. “All you learn from this is how to desire more stuff.”

2.  It’s the war within  

A brilliant book I re-read this year was Eknath Easwaran’s The Bhagavad Gita. Here is an excerpt from the book I found super insightful –

The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious.

Easwaran adds –

Scholars can debate the point forever, but when the Gita is practiced, I think, it becomes clear that the struggle the Gita is concerned with is the struggle for self-mastery. It was Vyasa’s genius to take the whole great Mahabharata epic and see it as metaphor for the perennial war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness in every human heart. Arjuna and Krishna are then no longer merely characters in a literary masterpiece. Arjuna becomes Everyman, asking the Lord himself, Sri Krishna, the perennial questions about life and death – not as a philosopher, but as the quintessential man of action. Thus read, the Gita is not an external dialogue but an internal one: between the ordinary human personality, full of questions about the meaning of life, and our deepest Self, which is divine.

There is, in fact, no other way to read the Gita and grasp it as spiritual instruction. If I could offer only one key to understanding this divine dialogue, it would be to remember that it takes place in the depths of consciousness and that Krishna is not some external being, human or superhuman, but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human personality.

If you have an interest in reading the Gita, I suggest you pick up this book.

3. Real success in life 

In his book Education of a Value Investor, Guy Spier quotes Warren Buffett as saying this to college students…

When you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually love you. I know people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster. That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life.

He continues –

The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. You can buy pamphlets that say how wonderful you are. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.” Of all the lessons that Warren has taught me, perhaps this is the most important.

4. Become antifragile

Life is uncertain, and often random. Things that we think should happen, often don’t. And things we think should not happen, often do. Most of it makes sense after the fact. But when we are facing life’s randomness, we curse it. We think we’ve been dealt an unfair hand, except when things are going our way.

However, the good thing about the randomness of life is that it provides us with the ability to become better at dealing with, well, randomness. Again, in Taleb lingo, randomness provides us with the opportunity to become antifragile – things that get better when exposed to shocks, volatility, randomness, disorders, stressors, risk, and uncertainty.

Taleb writes in Antifragile –

This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing—and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.

Artisans, say, taxi drivers, prostitutes (a very, very old profession), carpenters, plumbers, tailors, and dentists, have some volatility in their income but they are rather robust to a minor professional Black Swan, one that would bring their income to a complete halt. Their risks are visible. Not so with employees, who have no volatility, but can be surprised to see their income going to zero after a phone call from the personnel department. Employees’ risks are hidden.

5. Life is a single-player game

In his podcast session with Farnam Street, Naval Ravikant talks about the idea of being happy –

When it comes to learn to be happy, train yourself to be happy, completely internal, no external progress, no external validation, 100% you’re competing against yourself, single-player game. We are such social creatures, we’re more like bees or ants, that we’re externally programmed and driven, that we just don’t know how to play and win at these single-player games anymore.

We compete purely on multi-player games. The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single-player.

6. What to teach kids

Naval also tells this during his session with Farnam Street –

I think learning should be about learning the basics in all the fields and learning them really well over and over. Life is mostly about applying the basics and only doing the advanced stuff in the things that you truly love and where you understand the basics inside out. That’s not how our system is built.

We teach all these kids calculus and they walk out not understanding calculus at all. Really they would have been better off served doing arithmetic and basic computer programming the entire time. I think there’s a pace of learning issue.

Then there’s finally a what to learn. There’s a whole set of things we don’t even bother trying to teach. We don’t teach nutrition. We don’t teach cooking. We don’t teach how to be in happy, positive relationships. We don’t teach how to keep your body healthy and fit. We just say sports. We don’t teach happiness. We don’t teach meditation. Maybe we shouldn’t teach some of these things because different kids will have different aptitudes, but maybe we should. Maybe we should teach practical construction of technology. Maybe everyone in their science project, instead of building a little chemistry volcano, maybe you should be building a smartphone.

7. Time + Health > Wealth

Ben Carlson, author of the blog and a nice book by the same name – A Wealth of Common Sense – wrote about few financial advices he thinks are not talked about much but offer big financial payoffs. One such advice, and that I believe makes great sense, is about why time and health matter more than wealth. Ben wrote –

Cornelius Vanderbilt’s son William was far and away the richest person in the world after doubling the inheritance given to him by his late father in just 6 years. But the burden of wealth brought him nothing but anxiety. He spent all of his time managing his substantial wealth through the family’s businesses, which meant he had no time to enjoy his money or take care of his body.

He once said of a neighbor who didn’t have as much money, “He isn’t worth a hundredth part as much as I am, but he has more of the real pleasures of life than I have. His house is as comfortable as mine, even if it didn’t cost so much; his team is about as good as mine; his opera box is next to mine; his health is better than mine, and he will probably outlive me. And he can trust his friends.”

William also told his nephew, “What’s the use, Sam, of having all this money if you cannot enjoy it? My wealth is no comfort to me if I have not good health behind it.”

All the money in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have the time or the health to enjoy it.

8. Remind yourself of your mortality

Citizens of one of the happiest countries in the world, Bhutan, meditate on their mortality five times a day. “It cures you,” the Bhutanese say. Not just the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, even Stoicism talks about memento mori that is the practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.

Now, the thing about meditating on your own mortality is that it doesn’t make life pointless. Instead, knowing that you will die one day creates priority and thinking about it helps you live with a more positive perspective. So you can focus on what’s important.

Like Seneca reminds us to be spendthrifts of time given so little time we have on our hand –

Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.

He then advises –

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.

9. Be humble

You are just a tiny cog in a massive machine. You may want to board the lift to the top floor, but you have no control over someone pressing the wrong button, or the lift crashing down. So, be humble.

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6 thoughts on “What are random thoughts about life ?

  1. I disagree with the view of interpreting the Gita above.

    “There is, in fact, no other way to read the Gita and grasp it as spiritual instruction. . . .”

    Devotees of Lord Krsna would disagree with the view that it is only an allegory for an internal dialogue.

    Liked by 2 people

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