Quora: Successful Person Vs. Average Person

How you measure success can be done in a dozen different ways. Some of them meaningful, some of them not so much. Once upon a time I might have tried to answer this question based on financial success, but now I will answer with a little more depth.

A successful person is the person who does everything they can to attain the life that they truly desire. In other words, when you are able to make your passions, your interests, the things that make you feel alive, become the roots of your existence. There are no limits to this, as humans all have different things that make them tick.

An average person is the person who never takes action on following through with their dreams. They might be financially successful by the standards of society, but they live a life that someone else laid out before them. Maybe once upon a time they dreamt of being a musician, but somewhere along the line they traded in their instrument for a quest of climbing some corporate ladder.

Often times when you have this discussion with people they try to argue that the former is nearly impossible. If you look at people who have made their dreams a reality, it wasn’t something that happened over night. It isn’t about quitting your job and risking becoming homeless to follow your dreams. It is about taking small steps. The reason not everyone does, or even tries to make their life revolve around their passions, is because it takes a shit load of work. It’s scary, it’s hard. And usually there is another safer path there waiting for you, the same one that everyone else is taking.

Here I will compare the lives of two different people. One who is financially successful, one who is successful in the sense I speak of above.

Big Tim graduated from college near the top of his class. Growing up he always had an amazing talent at design. In high school he used to spend his free time drawing sketches of elaborate buildings, homes, and other structures.  When he got to school, he didn’t really know what to study, so he got a business degree.

Big Tim ended up working for a big corporation in their supply chain group. After being there for twenty years, he makes well over six figures a year, drives a nice car and has a large house, but he dreads waking up each day. To him each day is almost the same as the day before. He hates Sundays, spends each week day looking forward to Friday, and isn’t very fond of the people he works with. Big Tim spends a lot of time thinking that somewhere along the lines he committed to a life that was one of the options offered to the average person of society, instead of the life he wanted. Only in hindsight does he realize that he gave up on the things he loved because he thought he was supposed to do something else.

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Now let’s look at Phil. Ever since being introduced to video games as a kid, Phil became fascinated with the world of virtual reality. By the time middle school rolled around him and his friends used to get together and write out plots for games that they made up, design levels, and draw characters for these games. In high school Phil started to learn everything he could about how to develop his own game, teaching himself and learning from others on the internet.

When it came time for Phil to go to college, he ultimately opted out of it despite his parents’ wishes. Upon graduation Phil had already created his own video game, which he used to get a job at a small startup company. He loved the group he worked with, as they all had inherently similar interests, and they allowed him the creativity to make his ideas come to life. A few years later, Phil’s team released a game that attracted a large player base, enabling him to no longer have to worry about finances. Phil now spends every day around people he calls friends, doing work that revolves around a passion that he discovered as a child.

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To put it simply: Successful people are those who spend a little time each day on the things they love, working towards a vision they have in their head where those passions are what their days revolve around.

Of course, this is just the opinion I have about the subject.

Book Review: Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell

Overview: I decided to read this book after seeing the movie. Once I learned that it was written by the guy who survived this stint in hell, I had to see the written version of the story. As you would expect, there was a lot more detail in the book, and a lot more happened that the movie didn’t cover.

You could tell that Luttrell isn’t an expert writer, but the story was told well enough that I wanted to keep reading. Up front there is a lot of backstory on becoming a navy SEAL and everything that goes into it, and he really drove home a strong sense of arrogance about his SEAL status, and let out all of his biases about his political affiliation. Nonetheless, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about what it takes to become a SEAL (a lot of hell), which was worthwhile.

The story itself is what delivers. Four SEALs drop into Afghanistan to try to take out an important figure of the Taliban. While traversing a mountainside they run into a few goatherds, and decide to let them live (ultimately because they didn’t want to go to jail because of the rules of engagement policies for the USA). This leads to a battle – 150-200 Taliban vs four SEALs, on the side of a rocky mountain. What they go through is truly insane. They are shot, fall down multiple sections of the mountain, hit by RPG’s, and sent to hell in back, all while fighting until their very last breaths.

Luttrell manages to survive with the help of one of the nearby villages, when a doctor who finds him decides to declare Lohkay with him.  It essentially means that the village will fight to the death to protect the person from his enemy.

I won’t get into any more details, but it is an incredible story, and it will open your eyes up to a part of life you will likely never have to experience.

Lesson: Even when the odds are stacked against you in every possible way, there still might be a chance to overcome them all. To me, it is truly insane that he survived to tell his story. (many lessons could be found in this one, human kindness, evil, community, brotherhood, et cetera).

Important Passages (Per Sean):

“In times of uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call; a common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country and the American people, and to protect their way of life. I am that man.”

“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies . If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required, yet guided by the very principles I serve to defend.

There is no other way to beat a terrorist. You must fight like him, or he will surely kill you.

Because in the end, your enemy must ultimately fear you, understand your supremacy.

Those terrorist organizations laugh at the U.S. media, and they know exactly how to use the system against us.

It wasn’t anything for banks to make loans of more than $ 100 million to oil explorers and producers. At one time there were 4,500 oil rigs running in the U.S.A., most of them in Texas. Credit? That was easy. Banks would lend you a million bucks without batting an eye.

“One day I’m not gonna be here. Then it’s gonna be you two, by yourselves, and I want you to understand how rough and unfair this world is . I want you both prepared for whatever the hell might come your way.”

When a tribe accepts lokhay, it undertakes to safeguard and protect that individual from an enemy at all costs.

“ Marcus, the body can take damn near anything. It’s the mind that needs training. The question that guy was being asked involved mental strength. Can you handle such injustice? Can you cope with that kind of unfairness, that much of a setback? And still come back with your jaw set, still determined, swearing to God you will never quit? That’s what we’re looking for.”

He closed by telling us the real battle is won in the mind. It’s won by guys who understand their areas of weakness, who sit and think about it, plotting and planning to improve. Attending to the detail. Work on their weaknesses and overcome them. Because they can.

These terrorist/ insurgents know the rules as well as they did in Iraq . They’re not their rules. They’re our rules , the rules of the Western countries , the civilized side of the world. And every terrorist knows how to manipulate them in their own favor. Otherwise the camel drovers would be carrying guns.

I’d turned into a fucking liberal, a half-assed, no-logic nitwit, all heart, no brain, and the judgment of a jackrabbit.

I sang those words all night. I can’t tell you how much they meant to me. I can tell you, it’s little things like that, the words of a song, which can give you the strength to go on.

Lokhay means not only providing care and shelter, it means an unbreakable commitment to defend that wounded man to the death. And not just the death of the principal tribesman or family who made the original commitment for the giving of a pot. It means the whole damned village.

There’s nothing heroic about suicide bombers. They’re mostly just dumb, brainwashed kids, stoned out of their minds.

Some highly paid charlatans in the media think it’s absolutely fine to take a wild guess at the truth and then tell a couple of million people it’s cast-iron fact, just in case they might be right.

He was doing it not for personal gain but out of a sense of honor that reached back down the generations, two thousand years of Pashtunwalai tradition: You will defend your guest to the death.

Quora: What are the most common lies that people tell themselves?

We lie to ourselves all the time. Some of the lies are more dangerous than others. This is one of those that is a little more harmful.

(Insert thing here) is only temporary.

Jobs, relationship, laziness, eating habits, whatever. We tell ourselves that a given situation or a certain behavior will only last a little bit longer. We will do something about it and alter that thing that we know deep down is killing us (literally or figuratively). We tell ourselves these things but then change or do nothing even though we know we should. We just keep delaying action by telling ourselves again that it is all only temporary. But guess what, life itself is temporary. This lie doesn’t make sense.

This is why we end up running in place. It is why each day feels like the same as the day before. It is how people end up in a lifetime of a soul-suck job, they take bad relationships to the grave with them, it is how we get fat, why we never create anything, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve mentioned this in my writing before, but this lie is a big component of why we don’t dip into our unlived lives. In other words, the life you would be living if you took a few more risks, followed through with your passions, were actively health conscious, the list could go on and on.

When this lie replaces action or change over and over again, it can snowball and lead us to a place we never wanted to end up in. The unfortunate thing is that almost all of us are guilty of this one.

Quora: What got you motivated to start working out for the first time?

Prior to my first time working out I was 16 years old, 155 lbs, 6’1, with minimal muscle content. At the time my reasons for starting were mostly because I wanted to improve my physical appearance. All of my friends were athletes, and I dreamt of looking something like Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club.

I am now almost 27 and since first starting I have only taken breaks from working out for 1-3 weeks a year. My reasons are now different as to why I continue to do it, but I am glad that once upon a time my main motivation was because I wanted to look like a shirtless movie star. I have included a narrative to my first workout to what my mindset about exercise is today.

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I still remember my first workout in a gym. I was sixteen years old and my best friend convinced me to join him for his workout. It was a rather terrifying and embarrassing experience. My friend was on the football team and had been weight training for the previous year and a half (we were sophomores in high school). Needless to say, his strength and technique were much more impressive than mine, and I followed him around the gym like a weak lost puppy. I struggled to bench press 75 lbs eight times (the bar with 15 lbs per side), my arms wobbled with every lift I did, and I could barely turn the steering wheel when I drove myself home. The experience was far from enjoyable, and I had a better understanding as to why most people give up on their fitness based New Year’s resolutions.

But there was a magical feel to the gym. Just from looking around you could tell that the people in there were a little bit different from the people who didn’t spend any time exercising. Some were fat, some were fit, some were somewhere in between. But they were all there, which was an act of will. A conscious decision. Right away it was pretty obvious that in order to look like the 1999 Brad Pitt I was going to need to develop a powerful will.

Eleven years later I still have the willpower, but I no longer care whether or not I look like Tyler Durden. Over the years it has become just as much as a spiritual thing as it is a physical one. The definition of physical itself has shifted as well. It isn’t so much about the physical appearance, it is about the physical capability. The most appropriate description I can think of would be functional fitness. It is about having the strength to do the things that the human body has evolved to do. I can sprint, pull and push my body weight, lift objects of various weights, whenever and wherever I need to. You don’t feel alive by sitting in an office chair for eight hours a day. You feel alive by moving. A regular dose of feeling alive is vital to the mental and physical well-being of everyone. I won’t get into too much detail, but if you want more depth I mentioned exercise in another one of my answer’s on Quora.

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The point I want to make is that whatever your reasons are initially, if you don’t give up and quit, over time there is a good chance that your reasons for continuing will change and perhaps contain more depth. Maybe today you say that you want to lose weight. Five years into it you might tell people you do it because it makes you a better person. Because it is a great way to live in the moment. Because you want to be able to play every chance you get.

Book Review: The Golden Spruce – John Vaillant

Overview: John Vaillant opens readers up to the forestry world using the tale of a man who grew up in the middle of it. The story itself revolves around this man, Grant Hadwin, and Vaillant reveals all aspects involved in the logging business. You get a grasp on the evolution of the industry itself, how the tools and techniques have advanced, and the type of people who historically had the most success at the job (and staying alive). Ultimately Hadwin ends up finding logging and forest clearing to a terrible and unethical thing, and he ends up cutting down a rare tree in the Pacific Northwest known as The Golden Spruce. The tree was unique because it had golden colored needles and was a very meaningful part of history of a native tribe in the area, the Haida. After the incident Hadwin disappears before his court-date (for cutting down the tree), and hasn’t been seen since. He has been presumed dead, but being a successful survivor in the outdoors no one is certain of his true fate.

After reading this book I have a new appreciation for the beauty and mystery of old-growth forests, a better understanding of both the history and the dangers of the logging industry, and how intense the climate can be in and around the Queen Charlotte Islands (thirty foot walls of water regularly bounce off of walls and create a lasting turmoil in and around all of the surrounding area).

Lesson: With human progress there will inevitably be an insatiable amount of widespread human greed. Often it is only in hindsight that we realize the extent of damage that our actions can cause to our natural environment. Just as it has historically been with all booms, silver, gold, lead, oil, even nuclear power, the logging industry is no different. The giant trees in this story told by Vaillant may never again be replaced, and if they do return it will likely be long after humans have vanished from the earth.

Important Passages (Per Sean):

Until about a thousand years ago, temperate rainforests could be found on every continent except Africa and Antarctica.

It has been estimated that a square meter of temperate forest soil can contain as many as two million creatures representing a thousand species.

Sitka spruce is the world’s largest and longest-lived species of spruce; it can live for more than 800 years and grow to heights exceeding 300 feet, which is tall even for a redwood. Despite the colossal end result, their beginnings are almost unimaginably humble: a single Sitka spruce seed weighs only 1/ 13,000 of an ounce, and yet it contains all the information needed to produce a tree that can weigh more than 300 tons— about as much as three blue whales.

Few people alive today have any notion of how it might feel to pull worlds up from beyond the horizon by faith and muscle alone.

From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, it is hard to say who was more inebriated by greed: the Europeans who were seeing profits in the hundreds of percent, or the natives who were suddenly able to leapfrog their way to the top of the social hierarchy and put on spectacles of largesse hitherto unimaginable by any potlatch host on the coast.

The quick and dismal failure of trading relations on the Northwest Coast can be traced to a pair of lethal ingredients: the fact that both parties brought extremely violent cultures to the bargaining table, and that neither side was willing to see the other as fully, “legitimately” human.

They cut the forest the way they breathed the air— as if it were free and infinite.

Accidents were so common in the early days that if a man was killed on the job his body would simply be laid to the side and work would continue until quitting time, when a boat, plane, or runner might be sent to notify the police.

The Haida narrative canon has a lot in common with the Bible in that both contain stories that serve a variety of functions: some are creation myths ; some keep track of family and tribal lineage; some are histories of the region and important local events; some are prophecies and others are told to instruct the young and remind the old. The golden spruce story, as it survives today, falls into the last category; it is a parable

Oral traditions are not so different; each version of a story is highly dependent on a given teller’s memory, integrity, agenda, and intended audience, but it also depends on the current needs of the teller, the listeners , and the times.

The truth is often somewhere in the elusive middle, and yet billions of people continue to be guided in their lives by just such liminal figures, most of whom—like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and Brigham Young— are long and safely dead. Were they alive today, they might be languishing in a heavily medicated limbo, or, if they were lucky, they might be sent to Dr. Lukoff.

What’s inside is knowledge, experience: the past. What’s outside has yet to be experienced. The knife’s edge is so fine that you can live either in the past or in the future. The real trick,” says Davidson, “is to live on the edge.”

Trees are simultaneously photo-and geotropic; that is, they are programmed not only to seek out the shortest path to the noonday sun, but also to directly oppose the downward pull of gravity. This is why most trees tend to be straight, well-balanced, and, relatively speaking, tall. What is more, they pursue these radical objectives tirelessly, in some cases for millennia. Viewed in this way, it could be argued that trees represent aspiration and ambition in their purest forms. Simply by daring to take root and grow, they bellow: “We refute gravity and entropy thus!”

historian John Perlin: “Civilization has never recognized limits to its needs.”

In theory, then, a 200-ton tree that has stood, unseen, for a thousand years and withstood wind, fire, floods, and earthquakes can be brought to earth, rendered into logs, and bound for a sawmill in under an hour— by just three men. In 1930 it would have taken a dozen men a day to accomplish the same thing. In 1890 it would have taken them weeks, and in 1790 it would have been a matter of months— assuming they were even able to fell the tree.

It seems that in order to succeed— or even function— in this world, a certain tolerance for moral and cognitive dissonance is necessary.

 

Quora: Do you read? Why is reading so important?

I provide a brief summary of why I think reading is important on my book reviews page, but I’ll get a little more into it in this post.

It is pretty hard for anyone to make a case that for the average person not reading is better than reading.  Reading is the easiest way to gain access to the thoughts and minds of people who have done/thought/experienced things that you never have. It is a way to relate to fellow humans, sympathize with them through their struggles, come to “ah-ha” moments when they say that thing that you could never put into words, and discover worlds that you never knew existed. Reading is a tool for you to expand your mind and become a better thinker. Without the ability to read what other people have written, life would be significantly duller.

As an example, I just got done reading Into Thin Air, a book about the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. The book enabled me to become in touch with a side of life that I will never experience. I am not insane enough to want to summit Everest, but through reading I was able to gain a much better understanding of what climbing the mountain entails, what happens to the human body at high altitude, and how a series of small mistakes lead to a gigantic tragedy. With reading this book I not only learned a lot of new stuff, but I was able to feel similar emotions to what the author felt as he was there on the day of the disaster. The human mind is a powerful thing, and the fact that I am able to sit in a chair and have my heart start pounding while imagining being caught in a storm at 27,000 feet, is fucking amazing.

It doesn’t take much to explain why reading is important. Who wouldn’t want to be a little smarter? Why wouldn’t a person want to fine-tune their thinking? Why wouldn’t someone want to escape into a brilliant world that was painted by someone who put their creative talents out there for the world to see? Fiction or non-fiction, reading should be something that everyone tries to incorporate into their lives if they want to add a little depth.

Good reasons to start smoking cigarettes (Asked on Quora)

Here is the Quora answer for the week. A curious individual asks: What are the good reasons to start smoking cigarettes? Yeah, I couldn’t believe someone asked it either.

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There are so many good reasons to start smoking cigarettes that it is hard to narrow the list down to just a few. After a lot of in depth thinking, I found that these are the ones that I think are especially good.

If you are interested in lowering your physical capability

Smoking is a great way to limit the capability of your lungs. After a solid commitment to the nicotine sticks over a period of time, you will notice an increase in the difficulty of everyday tasks, such as walking up a flight of stairs.

Eventually you will be able to use your smoking as a reason not to do things. Say your friend asks you to go for a hike, you could respond with, “No thanks Tim. This smoking thing has made it so I can’t walk more than a hundred yards without feeling like I am going to have a heart attack.”

If you want to wake up in the morning and have to clear out your lungs

For some people morning wood just isn’t enough of a perk to start their day. If you become a seasoned smoker you will have the opportunity to start your day off with a solid bout of coughing in order to clear out your lungs. This might be ideal for people who like to check off as many things as possible on a daily to-do list. It is just another thing you could add to it, and it is something you can get done first thing in the morning.

If someone asks you what you did this morning, “I got a lot done actually. I cleared out the tar from my lungs, brushed my teeth, and swung through the McDonald’s drive-thru.”

If you want your voice to change

I know, puberty happened a long time ago. It can be hard to remember what it was like as your voice transitioned into its adult version. If you start smoking and work hard at it, you will get another opportunity to have your voice change.

There is something magical about the carcinogens found in cigarettes. They are one of the few things that over time can give you a hoarse, perhaps raspy version of your current voice. If you don’t really like the way you sound, you might as well give cigarettes a chance.

“I’ve been smoking like a train for three years now. I think I like this new voice. Makes me feel more rugged.”

If you want to be a part of a club

Smokers have their own designated areas where they can smoke with people who are also in the club. If you want to feel like VIP everywhere you go, join the smoking club.

The best part about the club is that you will almost always be able to find other people who are also in the club. Even at a bar in the middle of the winter, someone else will be standing outside freezing their ass off just to get another dose of nicotine.

A lot of darker things came to mind while I was writing this post (if you want to commit suicide slowly) but I tried to keep it as light as possible.

Some honorable mentions are: having your clothes/house smell like cigarettes (a natural air freshener), having an excuse to leave/take breaks at work, and having another item on your monthly budget.

Of course, there is no intelligent reason to start smoking cigarettes, but if you are really interested in any of the negative (positive) things I listed above, then perhaps it is enough to talk yourself into taking up the terrible habit.