Tag Archives: meaning

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

I’ve often failed with new year’s resolutions, this isn’t exactly a resolution, it’s just something I’ll be attempting starting 2016.
I recently came across Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues. Simply said, he came up with a system to practice one thing (I would call it a value) for 1 week, then moved on to the next, for 13 weeks. He repeated those 13 virtues 4 times a year, which makes it 52 weeks, exactly how long a year is.
What I loved about that is that:

  • The virtues were general enough to be applied to many aspects of one’s everyday life.
  • One can effortlessly sustain probably anything for 1 week (unlike a month, which is sometimes too long for some of us).
  • You can choose your own personal virtues which are even more relevant to you.
  • This is a great way to practice improving things over and over again, until they become natural.

Here’s a quick brief of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues:

  1. Temperance: “Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.” Easily applied to eating habits. This doesn’t necessarily have to apply to alcohol.
  2. Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.”
    Cut out complaining, gossip, and anything that you’re just saying to seek attention, give yourself that love.
  3. Order: “Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.”
    Simply said, work hard, play hard! We often take either/or for granted. Could also be applied to physical objects around your house.
  4. Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”
    Get shit done!
  5. Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.”
    Become more aware of your spending habits and any resources you might be taking advantage of (electricity, water, food …)
  6. Industry: “Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.”
    We spend way too much time on Facebook and other platforms.
  7. Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
    Don’t be an asshole, practice compassion and empathy.
  8. Justice: “Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
    Think of the consequences of your actions, you might be free to choose for yourself, but don’t hurt others on the way.
  9. Moderation: “Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
    Stop the drama.
  10. Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.”
    I would easily apply this to the useless clutter I usually have on my desk, and in my room.
  11. Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
    Even though the word directly relates to sexual intercourse, in our society we can apply it to how we treat our partners and appreciate them.
  12. Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
    Stop fussing over the small things. Find a way to connect with yourself everyday, whether that is getting in touch with nature, meditation, writing, or prayer.
  13. Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
    Find your own inspiration, stay modest, be open to others’ differences.

How Franklin Documented:

Benjamin Franklin kept a daily journal, he didn’t write about his experience, he just made 1 dot for every time he fell short on one of the virtues for that day.

This is a great way to keep things hassle free, simple, and easy to compare when you’re repeating the process. The most important part here is awareness and honesty.

I encourage anyone who’s interested to share their journey with me as well.

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8 Mind-Changing Books I’ve Read in 2014

Just before I start, I must admit that I’ve listened to most of these books, rather than read them. I’ve just used the word “read” in the title because I couldn’t find a better word, and “finished” was too long and inexpressive. To me, it doesn’t matter what the method was, as long as I’ve gained the knowledge, but Audible has been a great addition to my life in the past 2 years.

I’ve always loved books. I love browsing through libraries and bookstores, I have a notable affinity towards places full of books from ground to ceiling (literally), I was just never self-disciplined enough to read when I was younger. I love knowledge, and I always have, but as a kid, I just always felt overwhelmed by long books, and I usually didn’t commit to reading the books I bought.

In the past few years, this has been gradually changing, and a few days ago I realized I’ve finished 27 books in 2014. If you’re a reader, I’m pretty sure you’ve finished more than that 2 and a quarter books per month. However, as I’ve stated earlier, I’m a person who’s always loved books, I just always kept them stored, so this is the year’s proudest accomplishment.

Unfortunately, with my current obsession, I’ve realized that my life won’t be long enough to read all the books I’m interested in as well as still have a life outside them, so I’m becoming more picky and experienced in choosing my books, and this year I’m aiming on selecting books with a deeper meaning, and which help me go through an even deeper level of exploration.

I’m writing this blogpost to share my top 8 books of 2014, promising that they will not be a waste of time for you, or at least I hope they wont. So here they are in random order:

Quiet – Susan Cain

I’ve written a whole post dedicated to this book and how it made me start questioning many things in my past, present, and future. What I’ve learned most through time is that being an extrovert is not ideal for everyone, and that I should feel comfortable in my own skin, not always strive to fit in that ideal. What I’ve learned from the book is that most people think the same, but that introverts have so many natural benefits that we can learn from, and that when communicating with others, we should be empathic enough to understand where they’re coming from.

This book is worth a read, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or something in between.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

If I would choose one of these books as my favorite, it would be this one. This book was the most influential for me this year, to the extent that I recommended it to many friends, and even bought it as a gift to a dear friend of mine, with complete conviction that she will love it.

In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses his ideas regarding procrastinating on our biggest dreams, and how our fear (like fear of failure, or even fear of success) creates resistance which gets us stuck. He criticises the artist in us who’s often a dreamer, a perfectionist, and not a doer, at least not consistently. This book is perfect for you if you’re always dreaming about what you want to accomplish, but you’re not doing anything about it. It’s going to intrude deeply and within your soul and show you how to connect to your inner being. This book isn’t about being more productive, it’s a guide to connect to your creative self and really break the barriers of resistance.

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

Know nothing about philosophy but want to at least have an idea? Sophie’s World is gonna give you more than that. Jostein Gaarder tells a story of a little girl who one day gets a letter asking her, “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?”.

Ignore what I said about learning philosophy, yes the book does help with that, however, this book will feed your mind with questions, and confuse you. It’ll ask you the same questions it’s asking Sophie. You will realize that everything you thought you knew is actually an infinitesimal amount of knowledge you can know, which is way less than what you will never figure out. You will find your story in Sophie’s.

What Are You Hungry For? – Deepak Chopra

If being healthy, fit and light is a priority for you and something you’re willing to focus on, this book’s definitely for you. Deepak Chopra helps you realize that hunger doesn’t have to be hunger for food, and that the reason you’re unhappy with your body is most probably not even related to the fact that you overeat. This book taught me a lot about how my view of myself, self-limiting beliefs and insecurities are the real reasons I fill myself up with food, which is only a short term satisfaction. Dr. Chopra has guided me into digging deeper and getting to know myself more rather than just my body, and that our bodies follow our innermost courage or fear. This book fed my soul.

The Secrets of the Power of Intention – Dr. Wayne D. Dyer

The Secrets of the Power of Intention is actually a lecture presented by Dr. Dyer. It might seem a bit too religious or spiritual for some, but I personally loved the concept of the field of intention. Dr. Dyer discusses the difference between “doing” and “being”. We all know that doing is very difficult, we barely start new projects, and when we do, we barely finish them unless we absolutely have to. In this lecture, Wayne Dyer turns doing into being, being part of a field of intention, an energy field and the choice to feel good that give us the effortless momentum we often lack when we’re just focused on action. Loved listening to it, and I would do it over and over again.

One More Thing – B.J. Novak

Some might argue that this book doesn’t teach you a lot because it’s a couple of comedy, short stories. I completely disagree, because I’ve enjoyed this book beyond any other form of entertainment. The stories were so unique and interesting, and I fell in love with B.J. Novak, that I’m now convinced I should watch all of his creations.

If I have to say what I learned from this book, it would be the fact that you can always take something further, creatively. A lot of the stories here are based on other, older stories, but the way they changed throughout really astonished me. This book is bold, the ideas in the stories are things you probably never ever thought of.

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my most respected authors. He’s the perfect example of how you can provide scientific research and results in the most fluid manner. It was difficult for me to recommend David & Goliath, because I love all of Gladwell’s books including Blink, the Tipping Point, and Outliers, and I think they’re all worth reading. However, this one’s the most meaningful to me.

Gladwell discusses the advantages of disadvantages and the disadvantages of advantages, it helped me comprehend that I can find positive things in my hardships, and that I have to use my privileges right so they don’t go to waste. It also makes me believe in everyone, no matter how unfortunate or fortunate they are. With plenty of stories presented as examples, Gladwell will also ask you reflective questions which might help you set new values and find unfamiliar ways to approach some major life decisions.

Creative Confidence – Tom Kelley & David Kelley

And last but not least, Creative Confidence. Before you skip to the end, this book doesn’t target creatives only. On the contrary, this books tells everyone that whatever they’re doing, they can be creative and they can change the world with that. Design thinking is a huge part of this book. The book is also rich with examples and stories from all over the world of how people created impactful products, services and startups in a very short time, and how they’ve pivoted along the way, away from their initial solutions.

This is a great read for creatives and non-creatives, but especially for people in or approaching the startup life.

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You’re Probably Living Without Passion

Most people are mediocre. Most people, just exist without questioning. They fall prey to trends and then go with the flow of whatever’s buzzing, never contemplating what’s within themselves. Most people, aren’t even aware that their lives are void.

I believe that everyone in this universe has something remarkable to offer, but they may never get to express that one-of-a-kind gift if they don’t unlock the door that’s guarding it. So here I am, writing this, because maybe I have something valuable to offer, and maybe by setting someone who’s unaware in motion, I will give them the momentum that will help them carry on.

If you’re living without passion, you’re probably just waiting for everyday to end, expecting the next day to be the same, not trying to identity what is it that fires you up. You probably don’t believe that you can accomplish something impactful one day. So whoever you are, this is a wake up call for you to step into a slightly deeper, maybe more confusing territory, and enjoy the ride!

Here are 9 signs you’re likely to be living without passion:

1. You spend time gossiping about others rather than assessing how you can make your own life better

You’re not honest. You think you are, and you tell yourself you are, but you really aren’t if you spend most of your time on other people’s business instead of yours. Yes, gossiping is that much easier. It distracts you from connecting with your inner self and makes you feel like you’re better off than other people. That might be true, but if you keep that on, you’re going to lose the race.

When you catch yourself talking about others, just make a note of it, and remind yourself that you’re not perfect either, if you were, you would have been busy building up your expertise, rather than throwing around shallow comments.

2. Your life revolves around a job you aren’t enthusiastic about

“I’ll quit when I save up enough money, or when I can say I’ve worked there for a long time.” Stop basing your life on money, and stop making life decisions considering how the next employer is going to see you. You might be good at that job, really good, but you’d be way better as an expert after practicing your unique talent. Or you might as well climb that ladder of fame, fortune, and unhappiness. People can’t thrive if they’re no longer healthy, and even though it might take you a while to become the best at what you love, the time’s going by anyway, so you might as well spend it wisely.

3. You fill your time with short-term, shallow activities instead of giving yourself time to rest in silence

Here you are again, distracting yourself from the things that really matter. You go out with the same people every time, and you prioritise your time with them over your time with yourself, getting replenished and realising that you enjoy your own company just as much.

4. You spend too much time dwelling on how someone might have hurt you and plotting your revenge

Don’t be a victim, please. That person probably didn’t mean to offend you, and they don’t even remember what happened. Becoming vengeful depletes your own energy, the energy you could be using doing things like: spending time with your family and loved ones, painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, or maybe even finding a cure for cancer!

5. You dream about what you love doing the most but think it will never be your reality

You get lost in thought before bed every night, thinking about how dreams are merely dreams, they don’t come true except if you’re lucky. And then you wake up the next morning doing the same things again. Get this, your mind and brain are versatile, you can actually change what your brain looks like by practicing new habits. As cliche as it sounds, practice does make perfect. You choose your reality, and you start where you are. You come up with a process, and you make it happen by taking baby steps. Don’t just sit there dreaming.

6. You avoid trying anything new

You’ve lost touch with your inner child, and you’ve grown up with a solid frame of mind of what you like and what you don’t. But that thing you think you don’t like, whether it is food, a game, a music genre, or an activity, have you even tried it to judge? Don’t stop yourself from doing things just because you’ve somehow managed to like or dislike them without coming into contact with them. Some experiences are bad, and some are good, but there’s always a lesson anyway. Trying new things will help you break the barriers of self judgement and judgement by others.

7. You care about how other people see you rather than how you see yourself

We all love being approved of, believe me, I’ve lived most of my life being a people pleaser. What have I learned when I’ve gotten that out of my system? I’ve become confident in my own skin, I’ve learned to trust myself and my decisions, and I’ve realised that even the oldest, most experienced people will limit you through their insecurities. You’re old enough to know whether what you’re doing is right.

8. You surround yourself with “cool” people who don’t truly love you, and neither do you love them

Yep, they’re just “cool” because they’re popular. Not because they create mind-blowing art, and not because they read books in 5 languages regularly. Instead of surrounding yourself with people who don’t even know what you love other than your favorite kind of food, be a part of a community than engages in deep knowledge regarding many interests. Hang out with the girl who takes dance classes behind her parents’ back because she’s most alive in those moments. Or the guy who reads about chemistry in his free time and wants to change the world. You will love them even if you have nothing in common but this zest for life.

9. You are inspired by people who do what they love, but you still criticise them because it probably means they’re “selfish, irresponsible, and/or lucky”

Again, don’t be a victim, please. Life hasn’t chosen to be nice to them and evil to you. You make your life. If you’re jealous, it’s a bit better than criticism, if that might fuel your fire. Now do something about it! Don’t be selfish, but be compassionate towards yourself without forgetting about others.

Are you living with or without passion?

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The Imposed Dilemma of Growing Up

There comes a point in everyone’s life when he/she wants to be a better person. Wanting to be that better person doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad person now, but you know that the world’s got a lot more to offer, and once you know that, you can’t un-know it. You go into those different phases of doing different things, doing the things you’ve been afraid to do for a while like quitting your dead-end job or finally deciding to move on from that one person who’s been taking up all your head space. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not necessarily unhappy in that dead-end job, and you’re probably very good friends with that person, so you convince yourself that, “at least I have a job,” or, “at least we’re friends.” Then you start realizing, a little bit everyday, that this indeed is a dead-end job that won’t take you anywhere you want to go. You also become brutally honest with yourself, finally letting your thoughts wander, until deep down, you’re truly convinced that this person isn’t even close to what you want, at all, and that you were just infatuated with a projection you’ve built about him/her.

A bit over a year ago, this is exactly where I was. I had an amazing job. The environment was awesome, my bosses were the coolest, I was given opportunities to actually practice things that were completely out of my field, and I’ve always appreciated that. I was happy to be working with such amazing people who not only made a hilarious, one of a kind team, but were also close friends, friends that will always be friends. I was on and off about a guy who was head over heels about another girl, and I wasn’t even in control of the on/off button, it was always his choice to give me some extra attention. I was trying to distract myself with shallow, empty crushes of people I barely even knew. However, the realization started happening, and it was mind-blowing. I have a great job that started out as a great opportunity, but it wasn’t even close to what I wanted. And just like all human beings, I wanted more!

I’ve never been the type to settle, not for a job, not for a guy, not for satisfactory aspects in my life. I’ve always been a dreamer, for as long as I can remember. I wanted the big, important career. I wanted the guy who’s as crazy as I am with my optimistic vision for life, and I wanted happiness, true happiness. I also wanted the balance that’s hard to come with all of it. Obviously, I didn’t have any of that. Again, I wasn’t unhappy, but I’m greedy, and I wanted to come closer to perfection. I also believe that happiness is something you make, it’s a mindset and an attitude, it’s a journey, it’s a realization, and you always want more of it.

So, I decided to start with transforming my life, one more of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but never actually took action with. Then I remembered that I’ve always wanted to travel and explore the world, and I started looking for opportunities abroad. Soon enough, I was matched to go for a 3 months internship in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I gave my one month notice (actually in my case it was 2.) It was scary and exciting. The type of thing you can’t believe is real and finally happening. It would be my first time to ever travel completely alone, as well as live alone, since I live with my parents like most other 23 year old Egyptian girls. I also completely let go of that person I was constantly thinking about, as I believed that when I start doing the things I loved, I will attract the right person. So I’ve decided to not search or even think about it, and just observe as things happen.

My bosses were flipping out back then, since it was an important time for the company, and I was one of the very first people to work there. It was a startup, and I was the very first designer. I, however, reminded myself that I’m not the only designer on this Earth, and that I know for a fact that it will work out for them. I talked to them about my dreams to travel, to work in something different, to get more involved in other projects as well as completely start my own, and that was my plan! Everything was falling into place.

My plans for Russia became more real. I also started working on my fitness, since I knew that when I go there, it will be a lot easier to integrate new healthy habits. Life was looking good, I was more terrified than I ever was before because I felt like what I was doing was risky, who quits a full-time job for a 3 months internship? But again, I challenged it, and I remembered that nothing will ever change if I don’t take initiative in changing it. And to prove my previous point, I, very randomly, came across a guy that seemed right as soon as I had started focusing on me. We were talking day and night, him supporting my transformation, regardless of the fact that he neither knows old or new me, and I, becoming more and more inspired by him everyday because of his own transformation, and how life had the same meaning to us.

About 10 days before I was supposed to finally travel, after I had booked my tickets and confirmed all plans, I got news that the internship had to be cancelled due to problems with my planned internship and unavailability of other relevant opportunities. I was instantly crushed for a couple of minutes. I was at work, trying to enjoy my last few days with the team I knew I’d miss so much, and I started thinking about what I’m going to be doing now, since I’m working the last few days of my job, and then I’ll literally have nothing to do. My more optimistic self kicked in, and reminded me that everything happens for a reason, something I have always believed in solidly (and still do) . It’s just a challenge, I need a break from work anyway, besides, I could just freelance. That was during October, 2012.

Today, on the 9th of November, 2013, I regret nothing. In fact, I’m happy exactly where I am, even though it’s not where I imagined to be. I wouldn’t have said this yesterday, and no, I haven’t transformed over-night, I just shifted my thinking to a more positive mindset. I’ve been dwelling on everything that’s lacking in my life. I’ve been living in fear of failure. I have so many great ideas, but I’m so afraid of criticism or trial and error. I have the same guy I mentioned earlier (who’d proven to be truly remarkable), and I’ve also been so scared of him seeing me fail, that I had sometimes stopped trying. I’ve been so afraid of getting another full-time job, that I’ve managed to completely persuade myself that I will/can never be a 9 to 5 type of person, and that freelancing is my best scenario. I’ve worked at other new places, but I never ever gave myself the chance to actually fall in love with the places, or the people, rejecting anything that I don’t see as right from the very start. I’ve been meeting amazing people, but I’ve also been telling myself that I have enough friends, and that being distant is better. I’ve been aloof. Finally, I’ve only been writing meaningless things in my diary, not realizing that this has been a challenge worth writing about in my blog. I’ve been living in fear, but I’ve been mostly afraid of myself.

Last year at this time, I was confused. I was dreaming big, typical me, and I wanted to accomplish huge things. Have I accomplished what I had vaguely planned? Nop. I haven’t traveled the world, I haven’t started huge projects that I’m totally proud of, I haven’t yet reached my fitness goals, but I have done so much more. Today, I realized that I’ve been beating myself up over not accomplishing things that I still want in my life, but that it’s only been a year of my life. A year might be a long time, a long time to be dwelling on wanting things, and not actually doing them, but it’s still only a year. The amount of things I’ve learned today due to this year is astounding. Just the fact that I now know all of this changes everything.

We all live in this imposed dilemma of growing up. We keep wanting more, forgetting that the more you have on your plate, the harder it is to manage. We have such high expectations, and we forget that we can’t do everything at once. Yes, growing up is imposed, it happens sooner or later, even if we don’t want it, because we want the good parts of it, but not the bad parts. But growing up doesn’t have to be all that bad, remember that it’s called growing up, not growing old. It’s what we do that keeps us young. I had lost a part of me this past year, and even though I can’t quite define what it is, I’ve managed to bring it back and feel it now. I now remember that the past is always behind me, and that when I choose to see it that way, my present is always worth it. I don’t make perfect plans, and even when I do, I don’t always follow them, but I always end up exactly where I should be.

I believe that I, and everyone else who’s going through something similar, should let go of their past, remember to focus on the positive and on what’s there, and be grateful. The past can make us miss out on so many things we have right now, and so many magical things to look forward to in our futures.

Ps: I am currently starting a new full-time job after a year or juggling freelance projects and part time jobs. I have never felt more ready to commit and challenge myself. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I reckon I’m going to learn a lot from this.

 

 

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