It’s one thing to try to be humble, it’s another to imitate Jesus. In the Catholic mass, before the gospel is read, worshipers make the sign of the cross over their foreheads, lips, and hearts. There are different traditions around what this means. My favorite is to silently remind oneself to “Think like Jesus, speak like Jesus, love like Jesus.” It’s a tall order, but a wonderful aspiration.
My biggest struggle with humility is thinking that my work is more important than others or that I’m in a bigger hurry than others. I’m currently traveling. Airports are always such a stressful place, which makes it a delightful location to display small acts of kindness. Holding a door open or letting someone else go before you provides an exciting amount of appreciation. Each time I do it, I have the option of putting myself first, or taking a small step back so another can benefit. When I do the right think, it reminds me that my work is not so important that I should inconvenience others.
Stop. Breath. Love. Smile. Move.
Who is the most humble figure you can think of? What would it mean to think, speak, and love like that person?
Ben: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
Ancient Japanese Saying: 脳ある鷹は爪を隠す “the true hawk hides his talons”
I had seven years growing up in Japan, and have taken this to mean “practice humility in everything you do” - I agree 100%, even if I don’t always show it.
Ben’s Version: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
Ummmmm….Sorry Benjamin, old mate…..
Kiwi Version: “Use venery as often as possible for health, happiness, or offspring; but never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
Week 10, Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation. I woke up yesterday morning really early, about 4:30am, and started catching up on cleaning. Something about Cleanliness, it always feels like no matter what else is on my list (like weeks of overdue Virtue posts), if my place (or self, read: mind) isn’t clean I can’t really accomplish anything else. It’s some weird mental block that says to me, “first step is to clean this place up….but if right now I don’t feel like cleaning, I’ll just avoid everything”. When things aren’t clean around my home and within me, all other projects feel polluted. Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation – I suck at them all right now. Time to clean up and catch up!
It has been very easy for me to relate and transfer one week’s learning onto the next. Said it before, I think there is importance to the order. In my post on Sincerity, I was lacking hope that making any personal character improvements would really make a difference. But in summary, Sincerity taught me to be careful with words, and to understand that I am reflecting an attitude onto others that’s important in shaping their behaviors. Sincerity became a sort of renewing point in the project, a challenge to care differently about myself and the world.
After Sincerity, came Week 8, Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty. I thought about justice when I was feeling the pain of a first intense workout in months, I deserved it. Or, justice was the guilt I was feeling for not staying up to task on my responsibilities, like this project. Justice was how tired and kind of sick I felt for staying up too late doing nothing important. Justice was the despair I felt for my own lack of action.
In a book I was reading, very clearly stated, injustice is paying for the same mistake more than once. My interpretation, we permit injustice by constantly penalizing ourselves and others for one past mistake, or for nothing at all. Every day my responsibilities loom over me, my choices (right and wrong), my motivation, my position; that is both the thing that creates drive, keeps my stone rolling, and also beats me up. I’ve collected moss on my rolling stone by constantly suffering the consequences of past mistakes, even if only in my personal criticism. Stop collecting moss, stop bearing injury…that’s how I will personally approach Justice.
I know there are topics on Justice that may be more valuable conversations to initiate in the world, topics that feel almost too overwhelming to overcome. Through the week of Justice, I couldn’t help but think all of the injustice that was present in Ben’s time. Very simply, that there were not equal rights. One example in America, women wouldn’t be allowed to vote until 1920. This doesn’t even start to touch on human rights issues women face worldwide today. So Justice had me thinking a lot about women in the world, why have we been so undervalued in societies?
To get it off my back, and perhaps as my “duty”, I wanted to share two executive summary points from the UN’s World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics that I believe are the roots for the inequality and injustice towards women everywhere:
Power and decision-making
"Around the world, a lack of gender balance in decision-making positions in government persists. Women continue to be underrepresented in national parliaments, where on average only 17 per cent of seats are occupied by women. The share of women among ministers also averages 17 per cent. The highest positions are even more elusive: only 7 of 150 elected Heads of State in the world are women, and only 11 of 192 Heads of Government. The situation is similar at the level of local government: female elected councillors are underrepresented in all regions of the world and female mayors even more so"
"In the private sector, women are on most boards of directors of large companies but their number remains low compared to men. Furthermore, the “glass ceiling” has hindered women’s access to leadership positions in private companies. This is especially notable in the largest corporations, which remain male-dominated. Of the 500 largest corporations in the world, only 13 have a female chief executive officer."
Violence against women
"While rates of women exposed to violence vary from one region to the other, statistics indicate that violence against women is a universal phenomenon and women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic – both within and outside their homes. Perpetrators of violence against women are most often their intimate partners. Women are abused physically and sexually by intimate partners at different rates throughout the world – yet such abuse occurs in all countries or areas, without exception. Younger women are more at risk than older women and since the consequences of such violence last a lifetime it has a severely adverse impact on women’s family and social life."
"Female genital mutilation – the most harmful mass perpetration of violence against women – is declining for the young girls compelled to suffer it. However, it is still reported in a number of countries at high levels."
"At the same time, in many regions of the world, longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept being beaten by their husbands, even for trivial reasons. Whether for burning the food, venturing outside without telling their husband, neglecting children or arguing with their husband, in quite a few countries a very high percentage of women consider such behaviour sufficient grounds for being physically hit."
That makes me mad. Men, is it acceptable to you that this is the norm around the world? How is this demonstrating Justice? There are a ton of world problems like this that make Justice a difficult one.
Which brings me to Week 9, Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. Simply put, Moderation says that I can’t hate all men because this is the truth of women in the world. Tying it back to my lessons over the last few weeks, 1. To be Sincere speak carefully, with intent, and project a loving and accepting attitude of others and myself. 2. Avoid injustice and confirm sincerity by not accepting guilt beyond consequence. Also understand where it is my position to accept consequence for not only my own in/actions, but the in/actions of my community which I participate. 3. Moderation says to be rational and balanced like Temperance, especially with Sincerity and Justice. Acting extreme can bear judgments that skew against reality. Without moderation, sincerity becomes insincere, justice become unjust. For me, Sincerity, Justice and Moderation outline a little triad on how to process truth and consequence, showing me where I should stand moderate in my judgments of myself and those around me.
Clean…onto Tranquility. That sounds nice…
Cleanliness, for me, is about telling and righting the uncomfortable truths that haunt us. Showering ourselves clean of the dirt that we naturally accumulate during a life of, well, dirty work (save those of us who have never needed to do it).
So I try to, where I’m able, clean under my fingernails, and address some of the dirt demons that I know are holding me back in my personal or professional life.
I think that what Ben meant with this virtue goes back to the first and again most recent virtues relating to balance. Recognize your gluttony. Recognize your extremity, recognize your filthy truths.
No one will ever be able to more appropriately assess the state of your internal being, your balance and progress as you fight off the demons that come hand in hand with living…
And regardless of the prescribing doctor, the onus will always be on the individual to administer the medicine once you leave the hospital. The maintenance regiment that allows us to stay clean once cleaned is entirely up to us.
You will face the hardest challenges of your life alone. Even surrounded by your loved ones, it will be just you when its 11PM and there’s one more thin mint. You versus the porn. You and and your crippling fear of rejection. You and the constant questions of “am I big enough,” “am I small enough,” “am I good enough for her,” “is she sleeping with him?”
No matter how many people you have cheering you on. Its you in the ring with the demon de jour.
And we, clearly, would wish that we never had to deal with these issues. We, clearly, would wish that we might lift the rug, and sweep the room clean.
And you might even do that, and fool them all…
You will have to clean yourself eventually, in order to move forward… That is, at some point, internal disorder and dirty business will bring life to a screeching halt. If you live long enough to have that problem, which I hope you do. So if you must clean, must fight, must live… maybe do it now before you wake up and realize its a bigger problem than you thought when you start seeing dirty hand prints on all those clothes you just took out of the dryer (clean), or on your dishes that you just put away, or the floor you just mopped, or on your kid — who no matter how many times you bathe, still looks** just like you.**
*Mirrors Sold Seperately*
I’d like to think I’m a moderate guy. I don’t drink or eat too much. I’m frugal. I don’t “get into” things obsessively (e.g., I go to the gym 3x/week not everyday). So at first I didn’t know what to write about. Then it hit me. I’m anything but moderate when it comes to working. I love to work. I’m in the office 6 days a week. I’m usually the first guy here and the last guy to leave.
Why do I work so much? Because when I look at the people who have been the most successful - whether that be an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs or a changemaker like Dr. King - they all worked nearly nonstop. It is hard to find examples of really successful people who do not work a lot. I worked 70+ hrs/week to make my last venture successful, and now I’m doing it again.
But is it really a clear trade off? Does more work equal more success? Clearly there is a difference between working and getting results. One phone call could produce more value than 1,000 emails. So I guess it’s not how much you work, but how you work (boy, that sounds cliche).
So given that I might be able to get stellar results while working less, what might that mean in practical terms?
Tim Ferriss’ book The Four-Hour Work Week was very helpful in terms of making me think about the 80/20 rule (i.e., 20% of projects produce 80% of value). So I think it’s about identifying those high-value projects, rejecting/delegating/delaying the others, and doing the high-value projects very well. It’s also key to schedule things to get me out of the office.
But how do I moderate thinking about work? I can get away from the office, but I can’t always get work out of my mind.
I love this virtue! I re-read Ben’s definition at the best time ever: the security line at the airport. What was amazing to me is that when I chose not to get annoyed by TSA it was better for everyone. I prevented myself from getting in a bad mood and I didn’t bother anyone else. I smiled and thought to myself, “Why don’t I always chose to embrace tranquility?” Why would I ever let little things get me down? Why resent others when nothing good comes of it?
Ben: “Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable”
Chris: “Shoot the big ones, and chase the little ones under the fence” - Keith Cunnnigham, my first business mentor, and a Texan, on what to do when problems hit you.
If you don’t like something - you can ignore it, accept it, or change it.
Worrying about something is negative goal setting, and focusing on what you DON’T want to have happen changes nothing for the positive, ever.
I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to blog reading.
Especially political ones.
I check in on my favorites (which go in this order: HuffPo, Andew Sullivan, DailyKos, Crooks & Liars, ThinkProgress, Daily Beast, Salon, Slate. (Liberal much?)) more times a day than I would like to admit.
So what does all this have to do with moderation?
Well, did I mention that I look at these blogs too many times a day than I want to admit? Yeah. Not a lot of moderation there.
But…I don’t see myself giving up my addiction to those blogs any time soon.
So if you can’t beat ‘em, use ‘em.
I now use each time I want to link to a new blog as a CUE to do a task I’ve been avoiding. I can’t tell you how much work I’ve been procrastinating on that I’m now powering through, fueled by the desire to look at the next blog.
Surprising result? Not only am I eliminating procrastination, I am actually, surprisingly, ENJOYING my blog reading more. Because now I’m using my blog addiction to make myself more productive.
So I no longer feel guilty looking at “teh blogs.”
I’ve moderated my blog reading by dedicating it to a higher purpose: Getting work done!
I’ve been wondering since week one what I would have to say when it came to the topic of moderation…
As seen in the Fly-By that moving forward will be provided weekly by “The Kiwi,” Ben’s take on moderation is that you should avoid extremes. Not unlike the concept of Temperance (Week 1) where we avoided eating to dullness or drinking to elevation (both spectrum ends; gluttony), Moderation is almost a more thorough pass at the same virtue… or at least it feels that way.
What I take from this is that I feel like it is incumbent upon the path of successful individuals (save radical, outlandish creatives) to enforce a sort of balance within their own life. Avoiding extremes is actually about the act of moving away from the extreme. I don’t know that you can ever avoid the direction that leads towards an extreme though, in life. It’s just a question of the degree of variation that you allow yourself day in and day out.
I think about success (and our journey towards it) as a trip across a body of water. Very few of us (read: those not of the silver spoon club) are able to build, initially, a boat that is capable of crossing the body of water in one trip, and so we need to basically do a series of smaller trips. (See drawing below).
The red borders are the extremes of life, and this is the simplest way to describe how I perceive moderation. Think of these as being choppy seas. The closer we travel to or towards them the more difficult and dangerous our journey will be.
Some of us are born silver-spoon-fed and can take the grey route right as soon as we’re ready, if ever we are ready.
Some of us are willing to take more risks than others and are willing to travel the blue path. It’s shorter — maybe more efficient, but the risk is the deterring factor for many of us (no risk, no reward, and it bears mentioning that there is NO success without some risk — Moderation is how we minimize it).
Ben would probably advise that the vast majority of us take the green path, towards success. Calculated choices that take us from a vector perspective, towards our goal with some consistency, despite their glancing approach. It’s not that every choice you make in life is going to push you in a unwaveringly forward (towards success) direction. Sometimes you have to accept the baby steps that go left or right (and sometimes towards extremes we don’t want) but that represent enough forward progress to make them worth the time.
It’s just important to make sure that the path and progress of each step is worth it in your overall quest. I’m not a big fan of taking a step back in order to take two forward, even though it’s sometimes necessary… I am however, reverent of the fact that I have to take the forward progress that life affords me, instead of praying that one day I will wake up silver-spoon-capable and able to travel shore to shore by way of a miracle or other intervention.
Moderation: Keep moving towards your dreams.
Week 9. (Jan 26- Feb 1st) Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Another late post. Why? I have been sucking at this virtue long before this week started. I first started off writing out a long list of challenges, pains, struggles, and stressors I’m dealing with in work and life. I then deleted it all. Why? About 90% of what was on the list, I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR and/or are a result of CHOICES I made along the way leading up to this very moment.
If I want more moderation in my life, I either have to say ‘yes’ less, or ‘no’ more! Moderation requires actively choosing and making decisions as wisely as you can in each and every moment. Wisely meaning, that you make some attempt to predict or map out the consequences, good, bad, or indifferent behind your choices before you make them (I do this mentally a lot but also in a journal or on a notepad).
I realize that I dont always have the luxury to take minutes, days, or weeks to decide something because other people are waiting on me. But in most cases, I even find that “truth” isn’t real if I really peel away the different steps along the path that got me to a moment in time that I’m being asked or pressured by someone else for information or to follow through on a deadline.
If things appear to be spiraling out of control, beyond your limit to control them then really, it is YOU who has spiraled out of control, not the world (or at least stop blaming the world). Every day is an opportunity to stop dead in your tracks and reassess priorities, next steps, or just smell something rose scented;).
Took me all week to rediscover this and do something practical about it (like not answer every phone call, not take on too many projects that actually aren’t mine or of interest to me, and not get involved or chase after every “genius” idea that pops into my head).
Moderation comes from avoiding extremes and for some of us, tempering our “natural” reactive instincts. Ironically, a little self-control can go a long way towards the liberation of yourself, others, and your dang outlook calendar!
Week 9: Modified!
"Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation."
Cleanliness - “Nothing in life is neutral. EVERYTHING either represents you in either a postiive or negative light, no matter how unimportant or infinitely small it may be, to others, it is always either positive or negative.”
A lack of hygiene, no matter how minor DOE NOT EQUAL positive. Practice fastidiously levels of personal cleanliness in evertyhing you do. - Thank you Mummy!!
Ben: "Avoid Extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve."
My dad: “sometimes doing less, is doing more” - to me, when I was 13.
21 years, 11 broken bones, 4 surgeries, 80 stitches, 14 concussions, numerous muscle, tendon, and ligament tears, one hamstring re-attachment and a total of 7 years side-lined due to injury later, I believe him.
When I started the week of Sincerity (now a few weeks behind), I got a little disenchanted. It was the week of the shootings in Tucson (Arizona is my home), and feeding off of media I felt like achieving Sincerity at a personal level might have no effect on greater society. I am already a sincere person; my actions are founded on this Virtue, so how could I improve when it felt like no one else was willing to?
Sincerity, Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly
How could I speak accordingly when I was feeling so negatively about society? My beliefs could be perceived as “hurtful deceit”, my opinions leading others to unproductive judgments. I posted a thought with the 13 Virtues group, “Reflecting on Sincerity (and in light of recent events here in AZ), i think one of the biggest problems with America is that we’ve come to value a moral of “I’m right, you’re wrong” more than that of truth and compassion. Sincerity says use no hurtful deceit, think innocently and justly. Sadly, I think it’s become culturally embedded that achieving power (I’m right) and superiority (You’re wrong) are more important, thus dimming Sincerity’s potential light.”
With this thought I felt that despite my efforts to improve my character, if the rest of society remains the same there is no net effect. In essence, I felt sincerely, like what I say will not make a difference. I felt that people are ultimately afraid to be their authentic selves given societal expectations; sincerity is lost in a hustle for first place. Maybe I should just not care too?
From that point of view, my activity in this project fell off. If sharing my thoughts has no purpose to others, then what is the value to me? With help of the group, I redirected my focus and tried to turn this back to a personal challenge…it is not about changing others, it is about changing myself, and hoping that process is inspirational to others to reevaluate their character. Someone has to care…
Niles said, “And I think that’s one of those cultural shifts that we as a group have the power to affect. Maybe not on the macro level where we might somehow spearhead some significant cultural movement back to a humanist center where our priorities are not based on our individual value, but our value as a group. We’ve long since forgotten the paradigm of community and teamwork within the structure of our society in large. We don’t know our neighbors, we insulate ourselves from the people around us with firewalls and floodgates built high enough to protect a family of four. And when faced with flash fires and floods that are bigger than we planned (like they usually are), we all burn or drown alone (together). I think a lot of that has to do with a lack of our willingness to just be sincere with the world and people around us.”
Getting back into this group in sincerely important….
Chris said, “Agreed…. BUT as a foreigner who has come to your big and wonderful country to remake my fortune and hang out with more like minded peers it continually amazes me how so many people who are born here somehow fail to see the opportunities and the magic you guys have developed. This really is the land of plenty and the whole world is your oyster. The percentage of self made millionaires who are 1st gen migrants here is staggering and reminds me of a quote by zig ziglar i once heard where he mentioned that migrants come here (where they see freedom and chance at equality), and go for it…. and by the time they learn that there are all sorts of problems and it is really hard and nothing works it is TOO LATE, they have already made it. Case in point, my friend whose parents came here from India 35 years ago with a rug and $70, put themselves through college as doctors, practiced, and now own 13 cancer treatment clinics in the LA area, live in a house in Malibu with an elevator in it, are wonderful, nice people and give a huge amount back to the community, both here and back in India. Yes there ARE a lot of problems here, racial, societal, and otherwise. But guys, i know this won’t apply to you guys here for don’t let your yank mates miss the wood for the trees. Yours is a freaken good country, most yanks i meet, while they lack in appreciation of the finer points of NZ sarcasm, are nice, polite, genuine people (Miami and LA excluded). I just want to put this out as a juxta position to what I am seeing all over the place. There is a lot more magic here than not: Love this. Which I stole from an African-American mate of mine, Mike Norman “This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.” — Mark Shields, PBS”
Are my judgments and “false” beliefs – both about myself and American society – preventing me from seeing the “wood for the trees”?
Now how will I improve in an area I feel accomplished, Sincerity? My challenge is in being careful with my words, especially about myself. It is a challenge to abandon others’ expectations that I have adopted as my own. Sincerity becomes not only about how I judge others, but how I judge myself, the opinions I have of myself, and the things I say about myself. We deceive ourselves by crediting and espousing negative beliefs that society, family, friends, have laid upon us. It is only fair to think and speak of ourselves, and others, as innocent and fair as children, and without judgment. Share with people your authentic (sincere) self, free of fear and ego, and maybe they will feel safe to do the same with the world. We are after all mirrors of each other. Perhaps by showing Sincerity to myself through my words, I can help others reflect the same Sincerity in themselves.
A few of us have been stumped by Ben’s definition of justice. I have a Master’s degree in social ethics, so I’ve heard a number of definitions, and yet this one surprised me. It is in alignment with Ben’s focus on personal responsibility, therefore it initially presents itself as something closer to the golden rule than something addressing society, which is how I think of justice.
"Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
Since Ben was a Modern through-and-through, let me try to rationally break down his definition of justice and explain why I have found it to be intimidating.
1. “Wrong none by doing injuries.” When I first read this I considered it in an interpersonal context. I shouldn’t hurt the people I meet. This is tough. Just today I was impatient while driving, got mad at my girlfriend, and almost cut off a guy riding his bike. It’s hard to be a saint - always helping and never hurting. When we extend this concept of “wrong none” to the network of globalization, things get really tough. I can analyze all of my actions and connect them to the destruction of the environment, perpetuation of sorts of inequalities, and probably some labor violations related to products I’ve purchased. Can I really “wrong none by doing injuries?”
2. What is my duty? This part of the definition is helpful to me. My duty is not to be a hermit who lives a life designed to prevent harm. For those of us who are constantly interacting with people, buying products, and voting, it’s easier to consider our duty than to try to avoid harm 100% of the time. When I consider my duty, I think about what it means to be a Christian, an employee, a family member & friend, and a human inhabitant of Earth.
How can I live up to this definition of justice? To be honest, I can’t. I can strive to reduce harm and fulfill my duty. How? Mindfulness, habits, community.
1. Know your duty.
2. Analyze and tweek recurring actions. (E.g., what kind of transportation do I take everyday? How do I interact with the people I regularly encounter? What do I buy regularly? How can I make modifications that avoid injury and fulfill my duty?)
3. Have a framework for making decisions. Mine is a combination of virtue ethics and consequentialism. Which is to say, I try to make decisions based on my virtues (Integrity, forgiveness, frugality, humility, nonviolence, etc.). I also consider the consequences of my actions. A simple question might be: Whom might this action hurt?