I was just working on replacing a power supply on my office computer and crawling around under the desk reminded me of this idea: I used to be somebody!
I remembered buying this fancy desk for my office. I hardly allowed myself to spend $2000 on a desk but it was my big splurge, 14 years ago. I had a fancy office which I spent $100,000s building out. I was the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, which I had founded and built from scratch.
Now the business is still doing ok, but so much has changed. I moved into a more practical warehouse office, as that is what the businesses needed for our Ecommerce ventures. All the employees on my team back then are gone and I have an entirely new team. I still work hard, but mostly remotely and am only in the office once or twice a month. I let things go, now, that would have been the end of the world for me before. I spend most of my time helping children who come from difficult families and environments.
So, as I was crawling around under my desk, all my past hit me and I concluded that I used to be somebody!
Am I any less now?? No, actually the person I am now is more than before. But I FEEL like I am nobody now, when I see my fancy desk, which came with me through all the years. It is beautiful.. Metal inside with wood exterior and a glass top. It even has lights in the credenza part. I feel like nobody because I remembered those days year after year when I FELT like I was someone.
But now, I see that I was lying to myself back then. Trapped in the accolades and outward signs of success. I used to wear a fancy suit and tie everyday. Now I just wear jeans and something comfortable.
So I thought about this I am so much richer now because I have myself. Before I had sold myself to the world.. Whoever would give me the ‘atta-boy’ or $300/hr engineering rate I charged.
Now I have myself! And I don’t pimp myself out to anyone. I do what I choose on my terms for my reasons, and nobody has a claim to my life except me! I do what I value based on my rational decisions.
My mentor once told me that all we have in this life is ourselves and that if something goes wrong we only have ourselves to blame.
This is true. By accepting it, I am actually freer than ever before.
So, while I FELT like I was nobody for a moment while crawling under my desk, I now KNOW that I am myself. And that’s the greatest I can ever be!
Tonight, I asked a group of students why they respected our school’s founder, Grandmaster Moo Yong Lee (my Taekwondo teacher since 1985 and father-like mentor). Their answers varied, from “I simply respect him because he is my elder” to “I respect him because he respects us” to “I respect him for all he teaches us”to “he is easy to respect because he is so humble.”
As I expected, none of the answers were indicating that the respect the students had for our grandmaster was because he expected them to respect him. Knowing how humble he is, I knew everyone respected him out of their own desire to respect him. He would have been mortified if anyone respected him because they thought he expected them to respect him.
As I was explaining that respect can never be something that is commanded, but instead only earned, I decided to ask them what they would do if they didn’t have respect for him. Universally their answers were that they would not be his students. In that moment, I realized, yet again, the wisdom of our grandmaster.
To the extent that he was able to cultivate our respect for him, he was able to teach us. And teaching us was his objectives. So, our respect for him had very little to do with him, it was actually for our benefit. I’m certain he knew that our respect for him would help us learn from him. This insight only came to me as I was teaching, this evening.
This perspective is so different than the typical western perspective of respect. Most people want to get respect, or be respected. People are very concerned if they are “dis”respected. Respect seems to be something to be acquired or attained. The idea of respect being something given, and given freely, seems foreign to most people’s minds.
But in martial arts, specifically taekwondo, respect is a big thing. Only tonight, did I get a much clearer understanding of the benefit of respecting another. It always seems like the right thing to do, and it was just the way we do things. It kept everything running orderly, insured rank order was maintained, and provide a framework in which we could learn.
But I see now, but the true purpose of respect is so the individual can open their mind and heart to the teacher. Perhaps this is where the old saying “the teacher appears when the student is ready” comes from. Maybe the teacher simply knows that it takes time for the student to learn to respect him.
I will teach my students and do my very best to cultivate and earn respect from them. I will create an environment in which they can benefit from being respectful. I will always give them more than they expect from me, as a primary method of earning their respect. I will always tell them the truth, and always, always show them respect first, especially when they have not earned it or maybe even think they don’t deserve it. I will remain humble, knowing that my teaching is only that: my teaching. I will always give my best to them, and my intention will always remain pure.
Only this way can I help them develop respect for me, for their benefit!
I came across this poem/prayer by Mother Teresa recently and believe I needed to hear it. I have always pressed on during difficult times. But the past 6 months have been the most difficult, ever, in my life. This has helped me considerably.
Found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
Alternatively, it is between you and yourself. Only you know everything you have done. Only you know your true intention. Only you can ever possibly forgive yourself unconditionally! You can come up with 100 reasons not to. But forget those reasons and Do It Anyway!
Over the years, I have taken a lot of flak from people regarding my acceptance of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Especially in recent months, has this increased. People aren’t willing to learn about that which they fear, regardless of the rationality of that which they fear. I guess this is the irony of Objectivism itself.
I have promoted the book, The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand to many, many people. Only a handful have bought it, even fewer have read some of it, and I doubt any have read it all. But this little book clarified for me the thinking/feeling I knew to be true in the depths of my self, perhaps my soul. I recall tears streaming down my face from the beauty of Ayn Rand’s words — I couldn’t believe there was another human alive who could understand and explain that which I knew to be truth.
Here is a link to a short little video that gives a VERY high-level overview of what Objectivism is: https://youtu.be/asery3UeBj4
Here is a great explanation of Objectivism, right from www.AynRand.org I hope it helps you understand, and perhaps even prompts you to study Ayn Rand and Objectivism further. I am certain that in 200-300 years from now, she will be elevated to one of the highest places in history, as a result of her teachings having changed the world.
REALITY: “Wishing won’t make it so”
Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, begins by embracing the basic fact that existence exists. Reality is, and in the quest to live we must discover reality’s nature and learn to act successfully in it.
To exist is to be something, to possess a specific identity. This is the Law of Identity: A is A. Facts are facts, independent of any consciousness. No amount of passionate wishing, desperate longing or hopeful pleading can alter the facts. Nor will ignoring or evading the facts erase them: the facts remain, immutable.
In Rand’s philosophy, reality is not to be rewritten or escaped, but, solemnly and proudly, faced. One of her favorite sayings is Francis Bacon’s: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”
Reality — that which exists — has no alternatives, no competitors, nothing “transcending” it. To embrace existence is to reject all notions of the supernatural and the mystical, including God.
REASON: “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too”
The essential advice of Rand’s philosophy is: embrace reason as an absolute. This means: choose to face the facts at all times, in all areas, whether at work or at home, in business or in love — and no matter what conclusion logically ensues, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
The purpose of epistemology is to help teach us how to reason: how to think conceptually, how to properly define our terms, how to form and apply principles.
Reason doesn’t work automatically. We have to choose to activate our minds, to set them in motion, to direct them to the task of understanding the facts, and to actively perform the steps that such understanding requires. Our basic choice in life is “to think or not.”
To choose to follow reason, Rand argues, is to reject emotions, faith or any form of authoritarianism as guides in life.
SELF-INTEREST: “Man is an end in himself”
Why does man need morality?
The typical answer is that we must learn to deny our own interests and happiness in order to serve God or other people — and morality will teach us to do this.
Rand’s answer is radically different. The purpose of morality, she argues, is to teach us what is in our self-interest, what produces happiness.
“Man has,” she observes, “no automatic code of survival. . . . His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires.”
This is what the science of ethics studies — and what Objectivism offers. “Man must choose his actions, values and goals,” she summarizes, “by the standard of that which is proper to man — in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.”
CAPITALISM: “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!”
The ideal social system, Rand holds, is laissez-faire capitalism. Economically, this means not today’s mixture of freedom and government controls but “a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.”
Rand’s advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism is a consequence of her deeper philosophical views. An individual who eagerly faces reality, who embraces his own rational mind as an absolute, and who makes his own life his highest moral purpose will demand his freedom. He will demand the freedom to think and speak, to earn property and associate and trade, and to pursue his own happiness.
Laissez-faire capitalism, Rand argues, is the system of individual rights. In such a system the government has only one function, albeit a vital one: to protect the rights of each individual by placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control.
Another old blog post from December 2006:
I had a busy family weekend and needed to get back to a couple of clients regarding important meetings for this week. So, just before I went to bed last night (12:55AM this morning, actually), I sent them both Emails suggesting dates.
When I got up this AM, I checked my Email and BOTH clients had already replied, the first at 2:10 AM and the second at 2:55 AM! At the risk of sounding old, I’m sitting here shaking my head saying, “What’s this world coming to?”
In the past (5-10 years ago), I was the one person I knew who worked crazy hours, deprived myself of sleep (and health in general) for the sake of business, and really attached my self-worth to the results of my business. In fact, I remember having taken pride at my “dedication” when others would be astounded by my ridiculous hours.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for high-production, high-innovation, and a get-the-job-done focus. But I wonder what will happen in the world, when it becomes the norm to check your Email at 3:00 AM! In fact, I wonder how people are doing it? Are they staying up until that hour? Not sleeping at all? Or do they take their Blackberries or Email-based PDAs to bed with them??
As I grew older, I realized that I had to re-prioritize my life, or I’d end up dead at 35. I did this by assessing EXACTLY what was important to me (clearly understanding/defining my core values). Business should have been just a means to an end, but instead it was the end, itself. This was because I turned to business to satisfy my emotional needs for acceptance, self-worth, and value to the world. I learned that there’s a problem with doing this when you make work the ONLY place to turn for these things. In fact, I had taken it so far, that I was on 3 non-profit boards to try to get even more of what I was desperately seeking.
There is a big problem with this thinking, however: Until a person learns to be “ok” with himself first, he’ll search all over for what he thinks he needs to be “ok”. Unfortunately, he won’t find it anywhere else. He’ll find things that look like it, feel like it, and even temporarily fill the need for a while. But none of these will last. He has to learn to become INTERNALLY motivated, otherwise he will become a people-pleaser, doomed to feeling sadness by misinterpreting everyone else’s behavior as critical or demeaning to him. This isn’t fair to him or the other people and certainly is no way to live a joyful life.
By being “ok” with himself, he is able to be confident of his own decisions, actions, and beliefs while being open to learning and growing from other people. Ironically, by deriving self-worth only from others (EXTERNALLY motivated), he will become a barrier to learning and growing he is so desperately trying to receive. In addition, he ends up using and manipulating others to get what he wants, rather than accepting and embracing others as they are.
Now, I’m working at having a much more balanced life which includes my family time, time with just my wife, time with just my daughter, and my SELF time. I’m happier, and MUCH more productive than ever, because I AM more balanced now. I’ve implemented Getting Things Done by David Allen, which is a set of tools for helping people become highly efficient and effective in their task management. By doing this, I added structure to my balance and armed myself with techniques I use to manage myself when I get pulled in 50 different directions.
It’s a constant struggle, however, to achieve balance. I so often “fall off” and have to “get back on again,” but that’s fine with me because I’m learning and growing through the process.
I must also add that I wasn’t able to do this on my own – I had help from my business coach and numerous books, including The Four Agreements, Good to Great, Jump Start Your Business Brain, Getting Things Done, Boundaries, The 9 Things a Leader Must Do, The Secret (DVD), The Art of Possibility, and The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent. I highly recommend all of these books.
My larger concern is that as we “progress” with the benefits of technology, we may be leaving behind some things that we really need, and creating new problems for ourselves. I wonder if there really is a true net benefit to the individual, the family, and the business.
I’d really enjoy hearing your thoughts regarding 24-hour Email, business-based self-worth, and the future of the world with new technology. If you have a moment, just comment on this blog entry.
I had stumbled across this poem by Rudyard Kipling in 2009 on Kelly Perdew’s (from the apprentice) website. It truly seemed to be a message I needed then.
Recently, my daughter found it and shared it with me again. As I listened to her read it, I realized I needed it again, now.
Maybe you need it today, too:
Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”
If you can keep your head
when all about you men are losing theirs
and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
but make allowances for their doubting, too.
If you can wait but not be tired of waiting,
or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
and yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise,
If you can dream but not make dreams your master,
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
and treat those two imposters just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
and stoop and build them up with worn-out tools,
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,
and lose and start again at your beginnings
and never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
to serve your turn long after they are gone,
and to hold on when there is nothing in you
but the will that says to them “hold on,”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with kings nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with 60 seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
and which is more, you’ll be a man, my son.
Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, and several other incredible books, has had many quotes attributed to her. Here are my two favorite, at this time of my life:
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible. It’s yours. — Ayn Rand
Every time I read this, I get some energy to press on and achieve even greater than ever before!
“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
This one keeps me reminded of what to allow and expect of other people, and the standard I need to hold myself to.
Here’s a website of additional quotes by Ayn Rand: http://www.ayn-rand-quotes.com/ayn-rand-quotes/