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Know yourself

2012/12/12 - Author: Marco Neves

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles;
if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one;
if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

the art of war –  Sun Tzu

If you’re at war, knowing your enemy is important, bung yourself is equally important.

But at times like ours, where there are no real open enemies, most problems in our individual lives come from incomplete knowledge of ourselves.

Know yourself is important in war, and even more crucial in peace. It’s by knowing yourself that you find what makes you happy, what gives you pleasure to run to, how you would like to live, who you would like to be with…

Only by knowing yourself you can find out what you need and what you have to give.

Most of the time we associate who we are, what we do and where we are with ourselves. We think about those things as if they were our identity, but would we stop to exist if we changed all of that?

Everyone have abilities that could be used in other places, to jobs/tasks completely distinct from those they identify with. And a name is just a name. A rose by any other name would still smell the same.

It’s always ok to present yourself in a way people would remember you – in some cases in a way people expect you to present yourself.

But you don’t have to present yourself to you following any rigid set of rules. Your name and what you do may be a good way to get you in other people minds, but that doesn’t mean you have to build all your identity around those temporary concepts.

Ask yourself… Who are you? What makes you smile? What makes you run? Where do you take your time – what do you like to do quietly, without rushing? Where do you relax? How do you relax?

Ask yourself… What wouldn’t you tell anyone about you? What would you like everyone to know about you?

Ask yourself… What did you learn about yourself today?

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The Super Hero

2012/12/06 - Author: Marco Neves

Disney did bring us the Charming Princes with their Happily ever after, and Marvel bombarded us with the super heroes. Ok, it’s not true that Disney and Marvel have the exclusive on Charming Princes and Super Heroes, they are just two of the biggest companies in that business in the last century.

The super hero is someone with a very special ability, something that (s)he was born with, or something that (s)he got later on live. The super hero may be someone from a different planet, the result of a experience gone… not exactly wrong, but at least unexpectedly or someone with very special technology. The super hero always have special abilities, always can do something more than everyone else around them. Most of the time the super hero tries to remain anonymous – everyone is not to be trusted with the identity of the protector, so that the super power is not abused.

But the super heroes of this world only exist on Marvel comics, not in every corner of our cities. The heroes of our cities don’t have special powers, most of them are people like you and me, trying to live their lives, and making the lives of those around them a bit better. The heroes of our world are the firemen who jump out of the bed at anytime to help put out a fire, the anonymous person on their way to work that sees a child getting in front of a car and runs to save the kid, the… the normal person that looks around and finds someone who needs help and do it just because it feels right.

The culture of the “super hero” may give us the idea that it takes super powers to save the world, but the world will always be saved by ordinary people with ordinary powers, except, maybe, for their willpower.

Don’t wait for the super hero, get out and do your part. Don’t be a hero, but be as helpful when that is asked of you.

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2012/11/20 - Author: Marco Neves

Our brain loves them and most of the time we go with it. Labels make it easier for our brain to make the most obnoxious choices without any evidence to support them but the labels and general bias related with those labels.

Categorizing everything is a mostly automatic process for our brain but if on one hand it allow us to decide faster with very little information, it also let us assume with very little evidence.

Everyone have bias, and when labeling others those bias are one of the first things that show up on the labels we use.

There are several problems with labeling people.

The first of those problems is assignment. We assign labels, most of the time, based on our perception of the other people, and perception doesn’t always match with reality. It rarely does, I would even say.

The second problem is that people are not static uni-functional tools/objects. People not only have multiple sides to their personalities, they also change with time as well as with their interactions with other people.

The third problem with labeling people is related with our bias. Our brain takes more attention to anything that confirms what we already believe in than to everything that denies it. And that means that the label we assign to people tend to stick, be very hard to remove or change.

And that also means that we tend to justify a lot more than we should with those labels. “joking around as always”, “do you always have to be so critic”, “stop being a pussy”…

But, the real question, I guess, is: Can we avoid labeling people and accept them with all they are? Can we at least avoid the single label?

Maybe it is too hard to you – as it is for everyone else – to not label everyone, but you can at least keep vigilant and when you understand that you did it, try to find other, more appropriate labels for that person – and with that make it a bit more difficult for your automatic brain to classify everything that person says or does as a consequence of that single label.

Can you do that?

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Groups and Rituals

2012/11/17 - Author: Marco Neves

Don’t do the rituals because of the group – join the group because of the rituals.

All groups have rituals.

Some groups smoke in some hidden place in the school playground, probably the same group that later smoke outside the bars, because inside is not allowed.

Other groups play football, wake up to exercise, run for hours, talk about the game day in day out, think about the game all day long, go to the bed imagining plays and dream with balls.

Some groups join once a week for a few games of chess, others for dinner and drinks.

Groups and rituals are deeply interconnected – every group have its own rituals, and rituals are easier to create and keep with the right group.

Often we join groups because of some of the people that belong to that group, because we like the way they look, because…

But with belonging always come the rituals. And the rituals are not always of our liking, but once we are part of the group it is harder to get out of them – peer pressure makes sure comply.

And that is why we should choose the group because of the rituals, choose the group because we want to do the rituals, because we want to be part of the activities.

The two best parts of joining a group because of the rituals – instead of the group or the people already in the group – are that we can meet great people that share some passion with you, and if the rituals are not what you expect you can always say this is not what I joined for and leave.

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Changing People

2012/11/14 - Author: Marco Neves

There is a saying I find interesting – “Men marry hoping that the bride don’t change, and she does. Women marry hoping that the groom change, and he doesn’t.”

The true is that both change, and both stay the same. It’s that we just notice what we want to notice, and ignore everything else.

Hope that others change is, more than a waste of time and energy, a dangerous attitude.

First because the things we would like to change are most of the time a small part of a bigger side of that person’s personality, and sometimes you can’t change one without changing the other.

Second because we only change on propose because we want, not because someone else forces change over us.

But, mos importantly, why would we try to change the others when we can change ourselves?

Most of the time what we don’t like on others is a reflex of something we may not like in ourselves or that we fell we don’t control. But if we can’t control ourselves, how do we expect to be able to control others?

Aren’t most forms of control evil or at least a waste of time?

Aren’t the parents who forbid the daughter from seeing any boys losing their time more than protecting their “child”?

Isn’t the state who forbids common behaviors losing time and credibility more than improving the life of those it should serve?

Trying to change others is a waste of time, specially because most of the time when we try to change someone we jump from seeing the behavior to trying to fix the behavior. And with that we miss the one step that would make us see that the behavior may not need to be changed or if it should change anyway, would help us understand how to change it effectively.

And that step is understanding the behavior, where it comes from, what makes it happen, why it happens and whether it is part of the other person personality or an escape  from some frustration or fear that may need to be addressed directly.

However, most of the time, more importantly than understanding the other person behavior, we should try to understand were our own need to change the other person come from.

Fear and unsatisfied desires are probably two of the most common catalysis for the need to change others.

Fear usually come from experience, often our own experiences, sometimes the experience of those around us, who we care(d) about and that had problems with what looks like similar experiences to those we try to prevent others from going through.

Sometimes we would, if we wished, be able to minimize the risks, instead of preventing the experiment, but for that we would need to understand where our need to change the other comes from, and most of the time we don’t know ourselves that well, most of the time we don’t know that well what is the driver of our actions – fear is quite good at hiding itself, of creating rationalizations for its choices.

If you can find really good reasons to change someone else, most likely your only reason is fear – it’s mostly fear that is really good at rationalizing behaviors.

When it’s your own unsatisfied desires trying to prevent other people from enjoying the same things you were not permitted, more than envy – that sometimes can exist – your reason to prevent others from doing what you were not allowed is the rationalizations you were given or that you created, and those are usually that complex.

Maybe that activity you wanted to do – ballet lessons, martial arts, equitation – was too expensive and you were not allowed to do it – maybe you were told that those were activities for rich people.

Or maybe in your family the activity you wanted to do was not acceptable for your gender – football for a girl or ballet if you were a boy – and now you’re projecting those same restrictions on your children, trying to avoid that they engage on an activity you learned was not right for them.

Maybe the activity was considered economically bad – artists of most types, writers, …

Maybe they are experimenting with their sexuality – god forbid it – and it is the wrong orientation (not yours), or the wrong age, or the wrong partner – or, hell no, partners…

Before moving on your crusade, now is the time to analyze why you feel the need to change the other person, and why you think it is important that the other person change.

If in the end you still feel that the other person should change, explain to the other person why you think changing is the best way to go, be specific about what you think the other should change, explain why you feel that way, and be ready to accept that the other person don’t feel the same way.

Make sure ahead of this discussion to think what is more important to you – your relationship with this person or the change you want to impose (you’ll be trying to impose a change) – and make sure to express that importance appropriately – never say that something is a deal breaker unless it really is – you may end breaking a relationship you want to preserve because of something that only annoys you a bit.

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Happily ever after

2012/11/13 - Author: Marco Neves

Happily ever after, or how the fairy tales screw our lives – another story about expectations.

Once upon a time the abused step-daughter was visited by her godmother-fairy, who played dress-up with her, sent her to the royal party where she met her prince. After some challange – finding the girl with the right feet – they lived happily ever after.

This is just one of the many fairy tales we were feed in the last centuries, as bedtime stories, as child literature.

Those were the stories taking many of us to sleep, those stories were the first thing in our mind when the time for dreams come, and from hearing those stories so many times we started to expect our lives to become those stories. Worst than that, from the weight of repeated exposure to this stories, we were made believe that those stories were the norm, that they described what love is supposed to be, what reward for good behavior is supposed to be.

But live is not a fairy tale, and true love doesn’t always win, and even when true, monogamic, heterosexual love wins – like in the fairy tales – it rarely is “happily ever after”, but it wouldn’t sound as good to end the stories “happily most of the time, except for the small fights over – most of the time the same old – insignificant things, and once in the bigger fights about more important subjects”  (or is it the other way around – small fights about important subjects and big fights about insignificant ones?).

Happily ever after in real life means a lot of dialog, a lot of negotiation, a lot of understanding that me, you and us are three different entities and that for us to be happy it takes me and you to be also happy.

And none of those just happen simply because we found someone we really love, someone we really want to be with.

The happily ever after of the fairy tales made us believe that it just happens because love conquers all. But it doesn’t, even with love, relationships only exist between people, and unless you are dating your twin, people are different and most of the time relationships, specially love relationships, start between people that are different – in some cases so different that can be hard to believe those persons found anything in common at all.

And that means that they often see live and the world with different eyes, in different ways. What is really important for one may not matter at all to other, what one likes, other can dislike, one may like to go to bed early and other sleep later in the morning – and love doesn’t change any of this.

Love, in the end, is just the excuse they find or ignore to make it work.

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Just for a day

2012/11/09 - Author: Marco Neves

Could you imagine a day when you wouldn’t expect others to behave according to your rules- none of your rules?

A day when you wouldn’t think less of anyone who don’t follow any of your rules – no matter how important you think those rules are?

Can you imagine a day when you would see all your rules as guidelines and allow yourself to bend one just a little bit?

Could that day be today?

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Spending time

2012/11/08 - Author: Marco Neves

How often do you catch yourself just spending time, doing things that don’t need to be done and that don’t add anything new?

It’s no checking facebook or twitter, it’s refreshing and rechecking facebook and twitter again, after you checked it for 10 times already in the last 10 minutes.

It’s not seeing TV, it is staying in front of the TV even if everything that is being broadcasted doesn’t interest you, or you saw it already and are not really interested in viewing it again.

It’s not reading a book, it is looking at the book as if reading it while your mind travels trough time and space, to what was or was not, or to what can or can’t be.

But, the true is that there is nothing else you could be doing with your time, with your life – that’s you.

At least until you find the one rule that you think you can’t break and that is holding you – and you go and break it. At least until you find the one person that you need to get to and tell her/him to go pound sand. At least until you find the one thing that you would really love to do and you do it. At least until you met that one person that will light your eyes. At least until you…

It doesn’t matter. Your luck will change someday. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do anything to change your luck, it doesn’t matter that you don’t do anything to meet new people, it doesn’t matter that you don’t try to do anything.

Your luck will change someday… just because by you wish it does.

Do you really believe that crap? Do you want your life to change? Get you butt out of the couch and change it!

Your life is what you make of it. You can’t go to college? Go to the library! Don’t get a job? Start a business. Do have have someone who love you? Love the world, love Life!

Yes, I know, it is hard! So hard that is not worth trying! And that’s why you keep spending time on facebook, on twitter, on tv, instead of starting something useful, something you would like, something someone else would pay to have, to use.

Yes, I know, you’re tired, you’ll start it tomorrow, when you are less tired. I know you only have a little bit of time now, it’s not enough, you’ll start it later when you have more time.

You know what… go and read the power of now. It seem that you didn’t read it yet!

And when you are done with that, go and start something. NOW!

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