In his book “Awakening The Buddha” by Lama Surya Das is told the story of Milarepa, a famous Tibetan yogi who lived in the 11th century, and one of his prize students, Gampopa, a physician and monk. After many years of studying with Milarepa, it was time for Gampopa to part from his teacher and he asked for one final teaching, one instruction he could carry away with him. At first, Milarepa seemed reluctant, saying that what was required after all these years was more effort, not more instructions.
Then, as Gampopa started on his way, crossing the narrow stream that parted him from his master, Milarepa shouted out, “Hey Doctor-Monk, I have one profound secret instruction. It is too precious to give away to just anyone.” As Gampopa joyfully looked back to receive this last teaching from his beloved guru, Milarepa turned around and bent over, pulling up his flimsy cotton robe. Milarepa’s buttocks were as callused and pockmarked as a horse’s hoof, toughened from all those hours and years spent in seated meditation on hard rock. Milarepa shouted, “That is my final teaching, my heart-son. Just do it!”
Just do it…hmm! If only.
The important things in life…easy to understand but alas hard to do.
Here is my list of ‘easy/hard’ hacks that make a significant impact on your life.
#1 – To deal with difficult people first change yourself. I consider this the most important hack for human relations. We try to change people that irritate us or bother us. We complain, we offer ‘constructive feedback (sic!)’, we threaten, we blackmail, etc. There are definitely circumstances when we need to do this such as drug addictions etc. But when it comes to changing people’s behavior the only remedy: change yourself. Imagine how the world would be if we each change ourselves than attempting to go about changing peoples’ behavior or beliefs.
I guess this is what Dale Carnegie meant when he exhorted us to stop practicing the evil Cs: Criticizing, Condemning and Complaining.
#2 – Thinking. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it” Henry Ford. I used to think I was well… thinking until I realized I was just substituting thinking with worrying and fretting.
I did think…once…see my blog post on what happened as a result: http://www.ebook-of-the-week.com/blog/the-highest-form-of-human-activity-thinking/
#3 – Attitude. The importance of a positive attitude did not sink in for a long while. I used to think it was like looking at life with rose tinted glasses. That it detracted you from realism. Then I realized two concrete benefits of a positive attitude: 1) Whenever I held a negative attitude I seemed to get a more negative response from others. And it seemed I reacted more negatively to events. Life was just incredibly stressful. There appeared to be a lot of bumps on the road. But when I started entertaining a more positive attitude I was no longer so stressed out. Also I could think far better. 2) Zig Ziglar addressed my dilemma about the rose tinted glasses when he said “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will”. So while your level of skill will not change when you change your attitude you get to use more of your capabilities than otherwise.
#4 – Physical Exercise. Someone once wrote this and I have not forgotten it ever since. “Whenever you workout you make a deposit into your health account that will subsequently help you make withdrawals when needed and still be able to survive.”
# 5 – Invest in relationship building. When I was younger I was naive. I used to actually believe that your work would speak for itself. Just doing your job extremely well does not cut it. But on the other hand doing a job poorly is the kiss of death.
# 6 - Get God on your side. There is something supernaturally assuring about a higher power that will set things right, that will get you the Karma you deserve. Now this statement of mine might still be the subject of metaphysical debates between the atheists and believers. However the impact of believing in God is as real to me as the daily weather. While I paid dutiful obeisance to my deities it was not until I read Joel Osteen’s book “Become a Better You” that I went from the dutiful to heartfelt.
# 7 – Be like the rhino. No I am not implying you eat and eat and gain the 60000 pound mass of the rhino. Develop the thick skin mentality of the rhino. At two inches it is almost like an armor plate. Also charge at your goals like the rhino, without trepidation or hesitation. I used to be a cow. In fact I was called one by my friends in my undergraduate school. Well this cow graduated and went to work. One time I got so upset with the constructive feedback (sic!) offered by my then manager that I almost got into a traffic accident. Becoming a rhino implies becoming fearless. Criticism will not derail you.You no longer worry that what you say and do will offend others. Covering your ass will no longer become the sole guiding principle of our daily activities. I was inspired to become a rhino after reading Scott Alexander’s book “Advanced Rhinocerology”.
# 8 -Courage of convictions. Perry Marshall tells the story of his professor, Dr. Knoll in college. One day the professor asked a question “What is the most important virtue for succeeding in life”. He received many answers such as determination, love etc. He nodded and said these were all important but the king of all virtues was courage without which no other was possible.
To stand by your convictions is to take a risk.To take risks needs courage. And if you are not taking risks then you are rotting.
# 9 – Forgive others. It took me a long time to realize the wisdom of this step. But finally when I got much older and a little bit wiser I realized that forgiving others would get you off the emotional burden of holding a grudge. It would set you free. Never mind if the other person continues to be a jerk.
# 10 – Gratitude. Sure we have problems but lets change the context a bit. Scientists recently discovered a planet, Kepler-10b, that is about the size of the earth. Scientists theorize that at one time this planet was far enough from its star as to support life but that some catastrophic event may have caused it move much closer to the star. Its conditions are so bad with surface temperatures of 2500 degree F hat it makes earth look like a paradise.
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