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Human nature vs Human culture

2014/07/24 - Author: Marco Neves

I was reading a post on startup mentoring and come across the expression “it’s not human nature”. The same idea is often expressed in slightly different term – unnatural, against nature, against human nature, etc – but this is more often a sign that human culture is so impregnated in us that we can’t tell the difference between culture and nature.

In this specific case the author was talking about how helping others without expecting anything in return is not human nature. Hell, I don’t know what is human nature – maybe we don’t even have one.

But where I come from, helping others without expecting anything in return is common practice. But that’s the only way a small village of an hundred people will survive for generations. First everyone knows everyone. Hell, people know every single person in most of the villages around. And if they don’t help the others, who will?

The people who need help are not the guy in a suit who lives across the street that you saw twice in the last year, and to whom you almost had to say hello once, because he almost got in the lift at the metro station with you.

In a small village the people who needs help are the same people you grow up with, the people who worked with you half of the time, the people you say  good morning and good night to most days, the people you stop almost always to talk with, even if the only news to tell are about the people who got sick or who needs someone to help in the fields, or about the state of the fields, what needs seeded, what needs planted, what needs work, what needs harvesting…

But in the end, that’s what human nature is about. The relationships with people. It doesn’t matter what we talk about, it’s human nature to relate to others. But when you grow in a city, even when you move to a city after living in the country, it’s easy to fall into the trap of the importance of money, and ROI and into the fear of the others, into the fear if the neighbors that you don’t really know.

But we don’t learn how to talk, how to eat, how to dress by ourselves. We do that by relating to others, but seeing them, hearing them, touching them (maybe this is cultural, some cultures seem to touch a lot more than others, but it’s undeniable that babies calm down way faster in the comfort of an embrace of a caring person than alone by themselves).

Human nature? I really don’t know, but it seems to me that every fireman who runs into a house in fire because there is someone inside, every donation to charity, every time we help someone in need seems to show that helping others without expecting anything in return is not really   uncommon for humans.

And mentoring was never an exception to this. In a time when most people as troubles feeding their own family, the tonality who took someone else’s kid and teach him his skills, was helping the kid as much as he would help his own.

But the 20th century did bring us the economicist view of the world where what doesn’t generate a profit is not worth doing and it will still take same take for that minimizer view of the world and specially if human nature to be washed out – let’s hope that not by something worse.

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Breaking the law or not

2014/04/11 - Author: Marco Neves

“Every Time You Break the Law You Pay, and Every Time You Obey the Law You Pay.”

It’s not only breaking the law or not that have a price. For most people mor important than breaking the law that have a price. It’s more about your own principles, your core believes than it is about the law.

Breaking a law you don’t believe in have an implied risk, but the price you pay is only significant if you are caught while in violation. But if you break a law you believe in, even if you’re never caught, you’ll pay an heavy price anyway – guilt and remorse often stay with you for a long time, live in those cases you believe you did something really bad.

So, which rules, which laws, do you break without care, and which you pay the price of not breaking them?

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Hope and Faith

2012/11/05 - Author: Marco Neves

I told you about Hope – in Pandora’s Box – and about Faith – in the Power of Faith.

Because it is usual to mix hope and faith, let me explain why they are so different and how to tell one from the other.

Hope is, mostly, wishful thinking. You are being guided by your hope whenever you place your destiny completely in someone else’s hands.

The best example is when you pick a set of numbers, fill a paper and spend a few coins to play lotto or lottery. You are hopping that the numbers you chosen are the ones that will end being selected.

It is really unlikely  that they are. In most weeks there is a winner – not all weeks – and for each winner there are millions of persons that just lost their money.

That’s just the nature of most games, for someone to win, someone else must lose. And that is specially true, whenever there is someone who always wins – casino, state, brokers, …

You are having hope whenever you do something you did several times before and expect a different result.

You keep hoping whenever you consistently repeat a risk behavior and expect never being called on it – you are doing this when you drive over the speed limit, you are doing this when you travel on public transports without paying for it, you are doing this when you have unprotected sex with people whose health conditions you are not aware of.

Luck, or coincidence if you prefer, have some impact on everyone’s live, you can’t predict the weather, you can’t predict where you’ll meet someone special, you can’t predict where you’lkl find the job of your dreams, you can’t predict… well, you can get the idea. You can’t predict the future and what it will bring your way.

But you can live with it, protect your self and what is important to you the best you can, prepare for the most likely events and walk the next meter, take the next step.

Most of the time you don’t need to guess what live is sending your way, you can see it coming. Often enough your previous actions took you where you are. You don’t just happen to get to the side of a street you want to cross. You got there somehow. And, more that the side of a street, you shouldn’t often just appear in the middle of it. Most likely you started somewhere else, got to the side of the street, and then you started crossing it. If you are at least as aware of how streets work as 90% of the people who cross streets, you looked for cars before starting crossing. And this is how it should be.

If you just cross the street and expect that it will be ‘okay”, you are not having faith – even if you think that some god will protect you. That is not faith, that is hope.

Hope is wishful thinking. Faith is wishing for the best, but reducing the risks as much as possible, and making our best to improve our odds. Faith only starts when we do our part, otherwise is just hope, just wishful thinking.

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the Power of Faith

- Author: Marco Neves

Faith moves mountains. That’s not an actual quote, but is the most common way it is expressed.

Faith is a word that makes most people think about religion, about god. But I want to invoke a broader meaning for it.

Faith, as I see it, is that warm feeling that make us believe that is possible.

If you belong to a theist religion you may believe that it is possible because god will help you, but being atheist don’t make faith an impossible mental state for you.

You just need to find a new target for your faith.

Faith, with or without god, is a mental state. It’s, if you like, an altered state of mind that gets our brains looking for solutions for the problems we believe we can solve.

Faith can be our best tool or our worst nightmare. It can be the sail using the wind to move us along or the anchor keeping us docked. It can be the most powerful thing we have at our disposal, or the most anavoidable force in our lives.

The most important thing about faith is that we can choose our believes, but we will always have believes, doesn’t matter if we choose them or not.

Often believes we don’t choose become an important part of our live. Whenever we start thinking too often that we are something, we start believing it, and that can become more real in our lives than we being that or not.

If you believe that you are smart your mind will play more with the knowledge you have and you’ll start to see the things you don’t know as opportunities to learn more. But if you know the same and believe that you are not that smart your brain will see anything that you don’t know as a prove that you are indeed dumb.

I’m not saying that we are all born equal. What I am saying is that two persons with similar abilities can have completely different lives because of their believes alone.

But, is faith just wishful thinking? Well, wishful thinking is an important part of faith. Your wishes are what directs you and your faith. It’s useless to believe that you can understand quantum physics if all you want to achieve is painting realistic portraits.

But if wishful thinking is an important part of a effective faith, there are two other important components on it.

The second one is hard work. Faith is the light that allow you to find the next phase of your journey, but are your feet that have to take the next step. Faith may tell you that the wrong result in an exercise only shows you what you have to study again, but are your hands that have to get the books again, your eyes are the ones that have to read it and your brain have to make the effort to understand and memorize it. Faith, in the end, allow you to see what is the next task in your path, but it’s your job to do it.

The third part of faith can be described with a popular saying: “Divide to conquer”.

Faith may move mountains, but it will unlikely move your first mountain in a single try. If you try to go from knowing very little about a subject to as expert in a single day, there is no faith that can help you. But if you focus yourself on improving your knowledge on the subject a bit everyday, the faith that you can keep improving and that you can keep improving and that at some point you’ll cross the threshold that separates the amateurs from the professional, that separates the curious from the true experts.

But the true changes, when you dress yourself with faith is even more profound, so profound that it can be seen by everyone else.

If you believe you can do something, your brain will put the full power of your mind and body at your disposal, you’ll find the answers you need faster and even if you need your body to help – because it requires strength, or agility or precision – it’ll also perform at it’s best, because you believe it will.

But if you believe you can’t do something, your mind will also try it’s best to find reason why you can’t, why you shouldn’t, and and even your body will start complaining earlier, with a lot less effort being asked of it.

Believe you can. It doesn’t matter if you believe you can because you trained hard, because you studied it all and you have the needed abilities, or because you have some god helping you.

Do you part and believe. You can do it.

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