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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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Learned Fear

2012/11/16 - Author: Marco Neves

Fear may seem like a natural part of life, but most of the time fear is an intellectual construct of our minds.

What is initially called fear is a biologic reaction to the unexpected, the adrenaline rush that makes all of our senses alert and ready to react – ready but not necessarily reacting.

This biologic reaction, started by our automatic mind, allowed our ancestors survive in the jungle – making them aware of predators and enemies, making them alert and ready to fight or run for their lives.

But that is not how the 21st century men get to know fear anymore – and that is not the only thing we usually designate as fear.

As the original fear, the new one also tries to minimize pain, and have similar consequences on our bodies, but unlike the original fear, this one have social/cultural origins, and very rarely results from danger and unexpected events.

The biological fear is an impressive tool – and can also be an impressive drug (ask any adrenaline addict, if you are not one, you most certainly know at least one). It keeps you sharp when your live depend on that, it gives you the extra strength when it is most important, it improves your hearing when you need to understand what stands near you in the night, it is your survival tool above all others.

But then there is the learned fear, the fear of not belonging, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of rejection, the fear of not doing the right thing, the fear of doing the wrong thing.

The fear as a mostly automated reaction to unexpected changes in our immediate world is innate, most of all other fears are learned.

They are learned when parents scream with the children because they are doing something the parents learned to fear.

They are learned when other kids on the kindergarten or school make fun of us because of something we do, something we have or something we are.

They are learned when we are excluded from a group because we did something that is not acceptable on that group or because we didn’t do something that we are expected to do in order to become (or remain) part of the group.

Mostly because we grow up from punishment to exclusion, from being made fun of to being pressed, we learned through fear – fear of being punished, fear of being humiliated, fear of being excluded, fear of being alone.

But, fear is not the only option.

Unlike the original fear, who makes us move, alert and ready to react – yes, some people is blocked by fear, but most get a real rush and get more aware of everything – the learned fear almost all of the time just takes options from us.

All those things that we did in the past and were punished by our parents, our peers or the society in general, all of those options are not available for us anymore, or if we really have to do those things we are most of the time not able to fully enjoy those things because we are always afraid of the punishment, of being excluded because of them.

But sometimes those are really the things we need, the things we want, the things that make us happy.

Find your fears, search were they come from, find out if they make sense.

Don’t try to understand your fears. Fear, specially learned fear are often very good at hiding themselves in a very rational fashion.

Just observe them, whenever you decide not to do something, whenever you are afraid of doing something, just look inside of you and find out why you decided not to do it, find out what you are afraid of.

Just look at your fears and they will start to vanish slowly. Most fears are not rational (even if they show themselves as such), and they can’t stand being closely observed for long – you will start to see that around your fear is a very large set of things it is blocking from you.

Before anything else, be aware of your fears, maybe it is not time to face them yet, but keep observing them. A moment will come when you will cross the line your fear traced without even feeling the need to acknowledge that line. That’s when your fear starts to die and let you free to chose for yourself, fearlessly.

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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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Expectations

2012/11/12 - Author: Marco Neves

Expectations – we create them, we set them, we break them, we are broken when they end up short.

Expectations are not a bad thing just by themselves. It’s what often come with the expectations that make life harder than it needs to be.

We create expectations that everything will work according with our plans and we not only start to plan exhaustively over the expected result as we also forget to look out for contingency plans.

It’s not really the expectations that bring pain into our lives. The pain only starts when we fail to realize that life is what happens while we make plans, when we fail to realize that our expectations are not the solid present over which we can build.

It’s a good thing to know what we want from life, but when we start to leave what is for what we expect, when we build our lives over what we hope will happen, that’s when we set ourselves for pain.

I’m not saying that you should not create expectations. Expectations are a normal part of live.

However, always check if the plans you are making are built over what you now have or over expectations of what can be, over wishful thinking – and if you find yourself planning over what you expect to happen, make also a different plan that do’t need that to happen – plan for a different route, even (or preferably) if it leads to the same final destination.

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The Next Step

2012/11/11 - Author: Marco Neves

Any journey starts with a single step, doesn’t matter how long the journey is.

This is the basic principle behind making anything happen. Big projects are made of smaller tasks, big goals are most of the time the sum of several smaller objectives.

It is important to look at the big picture, to know what is the objective, but only to help pick the one thing that we can do now that will take us closer to our goal.

Whenever you are done with a task, stop and look around for a moment.

What is the thing you would like to do next? What is the one thing that is most important for you and for your goals from everything that needs to be done, from everything that can be done?

You, most likely, belong to one of two groups:

  1. the group of people who have too many things to do
  2. the group of people who thinks that all they want to do is blocked by someone else.

If you belong to the second group (people who don’t have anything they can work on now), the next thing you have to do is create a list of things you want to do, things you want changed, and that there is at least one thing you can do about them – NOW!

A list of things that you will be able to do some time in the future can be useful, but not for our current needs.

At this moment your task is to create a list of things you can act on right after you finish your list. The tasks must be as specific as possible, they must be actionable, and they should be as measurable as possible.

“Get a job” is not a task for that list, it is a wish, and wishes are a different thing about which we will talk later.

“Find a job offering I am qualified for and that I would like” is a possible task for the list.

The difference between the two is that you can complete the second without anyone else help, while the first implies that someone else will employ you – you depend on someone else’ actions, it gets out of your control – and that is where anxiety, depression, delusion and desempowerment start.

Now, back to the list – go do it now. I wait, as well as everyone from the group who have too much to do next. Go, go make your list of things you want to do and that you can do now! Take your time, whatever time you need, but do it now, don’t stop and don’t do anything else until you’re done.

Ok. Now that you have your list, I bet you just become part of the first group, you have too many things to do, don’t you?

So, if you are part of the second group, if you have too many things to do, you just have to pick one ans start doing it.

Easy, isn’t it? You choose one task from that list that is the most important thing you can be doing right now and do it. Easy, isn’t it?

Well, if you can’t decide what from your task list is the most important thing to do now, maybe your list needs some trimming.

First, there is anything in your list that you don’t want to do and that if it is not done nothing wrong will happen? – Move them to your not to do list. If you don’t want to do it and it doesn’t need to be done, don’t lose time with it.

Second, is anything in your list that you can do in just a few minutes and be done with it? Why are those in your list in the first place? If something can be done in a short time, just do it as soon as you can and be done with them.

The things that remain in your list now, most likely belong to one of four categories – practical issues, enjoying live, small projects and big projects.

In a later post I will take a deeper look at this categories, the type of tasks in each of them and how to select them in a more methodical way, but I would suggest  that you resolve any practical  issues – those things that have an immediate impact on your daily live as soon as possible, and then try to alternate items from the other three types according with availability of the necessary resources and personal preference.

The important thing is that you get to the next step as soon as you finish the previous one, and that you always know, not only what you are doing next, but also why you are doing it. If there is no need and no wish to do something, you will delay doing it, it’ll take more time to finish and most likely will not be done with the same quality.

If you don’t need and don’t want to do it, just don’t do it – get a different next step.

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I trust you

2012/11/10 - Author: Marco Neves

When you say “I trust you” what are you really saying?

Because what I ear most of the time is “I expect you to do what I think you should do – or what I told you to do – and I will be really disappointed if you do something else” .

That is not trust, it is authoritarianism.

That is not the way to teach anyone what the right thing to do, it is just pointing and forcing your will.

Even if you’re right and what you expect is the right thing to do, it doesn’t explain why, it just points it. The next time the something similar happens, the next time a similar choice needs to be made, the trusted one is no better prepared to make a choice alone.

If someone is capable of understanding the meaning of “I trust you”, is also capable of making the right decision – even if with some guidance. Are you capable of asking a few questions and try to understand the reasons behind the choices – or saying “I trust you” is the best you can do?

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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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Stories and anedocts

- Author: Marco Neves

Through our life we hear thousands of small stories and anecdotes. And somehow some of those resonate with us while others barely touch us.
We are, mostly, the result of those stories.
And the more we get exposed to different stories, the more stories we have to choose from, the more we can improve ourselves.

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On Morality

2012/11/07 - Author: Marco Neves

Morals are a special type of traditions. What sets morals apart from other types of traditions is that they divide things and, specially, behaviors in right and wrong.

A cookbook is a collection of traditions, a long list of ways to prepare food, but each person can choose the dishes (s)he likes (or prefer) and only cook those. There are no right or wrong recipes, only preferences. Some may be more popular, other less, but they are all acceptable.

However, a man wearing a skirt is wrong in most western societies. Not going to church is wrong in most catholic communities. A woman using the hair short is wrong in some communities.

Even if not all morals are born equal – a woman having short hair is probably easily accepted than not going to the church in service day.

Nothing wrong with morals by themselves, but in the global and diverse society most people live today morals are often doing the opposite of what they were initially supposed to do.

Morals, like most traditions, started as a way to protect the community and the people in it, as well as a way to make sure everyone knew what to expect from everyone else.

Some rules were created in the mist of power games that never served the community (or the society) and were kept in place the same way. But most of them – I believe – were born from good and recognized practices – guidelines, if you wish – and after some time the surprise of seeing someone doing things differently resulted in a “that’s wrong” judgement – our mind likes right and wrong a lot – and with that a good practice becomes a moral rule.

Left unobserved our mind judges most things pretty quickly. Right and wrong, good and bad, love and hate, us and them… Dividing, judgmental labels are favorites of our minds.

Even today that ability of our mind to make a quick judgement about almost anything is an important skill to our individual survival.

The quick judge that today makes us cross the street because he doesn’t like the group in front of us, avoiding with that being robed is the same that kept us safe from predators and enemies across the millennia.

However, in our current society, us and them is a lot more complex division then it used to be.

Today, most of us are part of a big enough number of groups that very fast not a single person we know is part of them all.

And that is one of the reason why so often a lot of subjects are taboo, not open for discussion. Because we now know that a lot of people don’t agree with us and we don’t want to be wrong.

That is often true for religion, but religion don’t have the exclusivity on taboos. Also sex, money, politics are often taboo topics, and some others.

Our main problem is not that others do things in a different way than we do – or that they do different things or have different believes. Our problem is our always quick judging mind, jumping to conclusion – were no conclusions are deserved or necessary – and saying that our way it the right one and that any other way must be wrong – and, so, other are wrong.

For some time I believed that this was something that happened a lot more with older people, or with less educated people, that us, the newer generations, us who grow up with the computers, with the internet – we know better – I believed – but no, that is not true.

We may know that there is a social context that may have a big impact on what people believe, on how they present themselves, on what they eat or how they speak or spend their free time, but, still, we jump to conclusions, we label them ignorant, or stupid, or gay, or …

We know people that have different sexual orientations, people that choose to be single or non-monogamic or monogamic – but still we keep pointing them apart from those who made the same choices we made.

But not only that. We also assume. Even if we know that we are different from everyone else, until something tell us different we project our choices on everyone else.

But we are not running away from wild predators anymore, so it is time to train our brain to just make a simple judgement – is (s)he dangerous at this moment? If not stop judging and let us ask – let’s ask what they believe in, what they love, what tell them apart from us, but more importantly what get us together.

There is nothing wrong with our believes, there is nothing wrong with our traditions, there is nothing wrong with our choices. But it is time to stop expecting everyone else to believe the same, do the same and choose the same.

It is time we – as a society and as individuals – understand that each and everyone of us had a unique live, that resulted in an unique experience, unique believes, unique ways.

It is time we give ourselves permission to be wrong, to learn, from others, but more than that, to be different and be ourselves.

And it is also time that we stop expecting others to be the result of our lives – and that is the only way they would be like us.

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Association

2012/11/06 - Author: Marco Neves

Seth Godin have a small post about how associations have impact on you:

Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with.

And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes.

And the changes are what you become.

Change the outcome by changing your circle.

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Tradition

- Author: Marco Neves

The origin of our specie is entangled with the evolution of our planet for thousands of years and traditions are a basic part of our culture, most likely from the beginning of our existence – traditions are observable is most (all?) primate species.

But where do traditions come from? Well, before that I would like to tell you a story.

A group of three monkeys was kept in a cage and a branch of bananas was hang on the cage with the monkeys, but when any of the monkeys tried to get bananas from it all the monkeys in that cage would be fired upon with jets of water.

After repeating that procedure a few times, any time a monkey tried to get bananas from that branch the other monkeys would beat him. At some point the testers stopped using the jets of water, but the beatings remained. Anytime a monkey tried to get bananas the would would beat him, no matter that the jets of water were not being used anymore.

But, to make it more interesting, one of the monkeys was replaced with another monkey. A monkey that was never wet because other monkey tried to get to the bananas.

As soon as the new monkey tried to get some of the bananas, the other two monkeys started beating him, and after some of this spankings the new monkey starts to join in beating the other monkeys when trey try to get bananas.

At this point another of the original monkeys was replaced by a new one that was never attacked with water. When this new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was beaten by the other two and soon after also this new monkey would start beating the other when they tried to get to the bananas.

At some point the last of the original monkeys was also replaced by a new one. Now, in this cage, there is not a single monkey that suffered the original punishment  for getting to the bananas and, still, when the new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was punished by the other monkeys, and soon he also would join in as a punisher.

This illustrates how traditions are born.

At some point in time one individual does something that have an impact (real or perceived – most often than not just perceived) in the live of others or in the live of the community. And when that happens rules and/or rituals are created to prevent or repeat that event.

Where do we find traditions around us, in our lives? Everywhere, in almost everything.

From the way people say hello to each other – and other similar interactions – to how commerce works. From what you eat to how you eat it. From how you interact with friends to how you interact with people you cross with in the street and never met before.

Traditions are, in the end, habits that are common to the majority of a group and, most importantly, that are not renegotiated every time, just assumed and used.

At some point in the past, I used to be part of a group that would have dinner every Wednesday, and have some fun after that. That was a tradition, not everyone would join every week, but every week  there was a group that would go out for dinner – dinner out become our Wednesday tradition.

In some western cultures it’s also tradition that men will take the first step and approach women they are interest in.

Tradition defined a lot of our daily interactions and in some places tradition have value of law in the absence of other laws.

Tradition can take a lot of forms, and be transmitted in the more diverse ways. From the aggravated look your neighbor gives you whenever you cross him in the street because of your long hair – tradition says that men are use the hair short – to the yelling – and beating if you are one of the unlucky ones – your parents gave you whenever they felt you were disrespecting some rule, to the cookbooks you can find today in most bookstores, and an huge amount of other practices, all contribute to get you in alignment with tradition.

Tradition, like almost everything else, if you want to take it all, have good and bad things. But unlike a lot of other things, with tradition you can pick what works for you and what doesn’t, you can choose what you want to keep, what you want to practice, and what you want to skip.

Traditions were mostly created to make life in society better, to make it simpler. But times change, and so do practice, knowledge and ambitious. Traditions, however, don’t change themselves, it take the will of people to change them, it takes a few people to step forward and say – those are not my traditions – and a few more more to follow them.

It takes you to ask yourself “Is this behavior, that society thinks is important, working for me or am I working for it? Where did it  come from? Does it still make sense or is it an outdated concept?”

In the end, you can let society choose how you should behave, or you can choose for yourself which ways you follow inlive.

Which traditions you think are outdated and should be abandoned? Which would you rather keep above all?

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