Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2nd, 2015

 

 

 

 

Are you still in the process of Finding Your Life Purpose?

Once, my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator.

My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

Mark Manson posted this September 28, 2014

7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose

But for 15 years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

After almost half a lifetime of work,, he’s the chairman of a major political party in his city and the youngest judge in the state. In the next few years, he hopes to run for office for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.

Most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives.

Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money.

Between ages 18 and 25, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a business, it wasn’t until I was 28 that I clearly defined what I wanted for my life.

Chances are you’re more like me and have no clue what you want to do. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through.

“What do I want to do with my life?” “What am I passionate about?” “What do I not suck at?” I often receive emails from people in their 40s and 50s who still have no clue what they want to do with themselves.

Part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it.

This is the same kind of shitty logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Tuesdays or during full moons).

Here’s the truth.

We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time (And basically define us and our daily automatic behaviors)

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?” (What kind of Time is considered quality time?)

This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the “life purpose” question does.

There’s no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Rather, you should be getting off your ass and discovering what feels important to you.

One of the most common email questions I get is people asking me what they should do with their lives, what their “life purpose” is. This is an impossible question for me to answer. After all, for all I know, this person is really into knitting sweaters for kittens or filming gay bondage porn in their basement. I have no clue. Who am I to say what’s right or what’s important to them?

But after some research, I have put together a series of questions to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.

These questions are by no means exhaustive or definitive. In fact, they’re a little bit ridiculous. But I made them that way because discovering purpose in our lives should be something that’s fun and interesting, not a chore.

1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Ah, 27e7 yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time. (Or many thing things sucks, most of the time?)

That probably sounds incredibly pessimistic of me. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down.” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate?

Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far.

If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.

If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

turd-sandwichWhat unpleasant experiences are you able to handle?

Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

Might as well pick one with an olive.

2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family.

Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us.

We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. (Especially in childhood)

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites — something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self had asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that 8-year-old boy version of myself would have probably started crying.

3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget. (I used to read for hours after school when I was 13 to 15.  I never remember feeling hungry or the need to go to the WC)

I used to be like that with video games. This probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, for many years it was kind of a problem. I would sit and play video games instead of doing more important things like studying for an exam, or showering regularly, or speaking to other humans face-to-face.

It wasn’t until I gave up the games that I realized my passion wasn’t for the games themselves (although I do love them). My passion is for improvement, being good at something and then trying to get better. The games themselves — the graphics, the stories — they were cool, but I can easily live without them. It’s the competition — with others, but especially with myself — that I thrive on.

And when I applied that obsessiveness for improvement and self-competition to an internet business and to my writing, well, things took off in a big way.

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe it’s organizing things efficiently, or getting lost in a fantasy world, or teaching somebody something, or solving technical problems.

Whatever it is, don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious.

And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks. (In my case talking publicly)

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says. (Too proud of your inferiority complex to stick it out?)

Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand.
Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems:  “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.”

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

Pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption.

Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference.

And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Gee Mark, I read all of this horrible stuff and I get all pissed off too, but that doesn’t translate to action, much less a new career path.”

Glad you asked…

6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.2, 3

(Especially acting on one your doubts, prove it, demonstrate it and disseminate your findings)

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we 1579 actually do the activity.

So ask yourself, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to leave your house every day for everything except for sleep, how would you choose to occupy yourself?

And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook. You probably already do that. Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. You have to be outside of the house all day every day until it’s time to go to bed — where would you go and what would you do?

Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?

What would you do with all of that time?

If it strikes your fancy, write down a few answers and then, you know, go out and actually do them. Bonus points if it involves embarrassing yourself.

7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out.

Thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

When I was in college, I used to walk around and ask people, “If you had a year to live, what would you do?”

As you can imagine, I was a huge hit at parties. A lot of people gave vague and boring answers. A few drinks were nearly spit on me. But it did cause people to really think about their lives in a different way and re-evaluate what their priorities were.

This man's headstone will read: "Here lies Greg. He watched every episode of '24'... twice."
This man’s headstone will read: “Here lies Greg. He watched every episode of ’24’… twice.”

(One of nieces graduated in fashion design over 6 months ago and is spending her time watching all kinds of episodes, way till early morning and then sleeping her mornings. And getting upset that she has to tend to her own eating: Her mother has the job to prepare a tray for her. She thinks that because she was first in all art classes that the phone will ultimately ring)

What is your legacy going to be?

What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today? (People care less of dead people, they didn’t care when you were alive, unless you could provide a job or a loan)

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here. (I just posted the obituary of my dad who passed away on Dec. 24, 2014. I called it the tribute speech that the priest should have read)

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you.

And to find them you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.

(At least write down and post your day dreaming projects, if you had the stamina to activate the initial phases, such as disseminating your idea and detailed plans)

Footnotes

  1. Sagiv, L., & Schwartz, S. H. (2000). Value priorities and subjective well-being: direct relations and congruity effects. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(2), 177–198.
  2. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21–33.
  3. Newport, C. (2012). So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Business Plus.

 

Have you seen pictures of Angelina Jolie at 19?

She practically didn’t change physically.

She changed to the better, passionate and compassionate about the downtrodden and third world kids.

1994 photoshoot reveals Queen of Hollywood as a teenage hopeful”

Racy pictures of Angelina Jolie were found!

These photos were taken in 1994 and promoted her first lead role in cyber thriller Hackers
 

 

Back then could the 19-year-old have imagined she would be the sexiest, most loved actress in Hollywood?

Could she have imagined that she would marry Brad Pitt and have six children?

How many are adopted? Four kids?

 

Beyond the Platitude of Dad’s Eulogy by this Christian Maronite priest

My dad passed away this Dec. 24, 2014. He was to be 90 next month.

We focused on the details of what customs and tradition demand in a funeral ceremony. We missed the one most important detail: writing a speech, a tribute to George Antoun Bouhatab.

The highest ranked among the priests delivers the funeral speech and it was one of the typical general speech that ignored 90 years of toil, anxiety, distress, sadness, hardship and doubts. A century unlike any other centuries in violence, perpetual wars, massive immigration, and technological discoveries.

The priest mentioned only one name, the first name of my dad Geroge, as if this priest ever met or saw my father. To this priest, my dad was one of the typical character who provided and educated his children, was loyal to his wife Julia, and a steadfast father who made sure that his children turned out to be devoted Christians.

As if I care about religion or have any respect for this caste of clergy whose only purpose in life is to amass wealth and plunder the little people as a seesaw from birth to death.

Can you imagine that a clergy attending the funeral is expected to pocket $200 for a lousy 15 minutes religious ceremony? A minimum funeral cost about $4,000 and they have to come out from the pocket of the family. Even the monetary contributions (the wreath bucket) do not go to the bereaved family: 20% goes to the bishop and the rest to the church waqf.

Dad was practically the father of 3 extended families, covering the monthly financial shortcoming, providing living accommodations, extending loans for car purchase, aiding in the wedding ceremonies and funeral expenses, getting busy when someone was kidnapped or was in trouble, driving to universities to check on the posted grades of every one of my relatives…

And in his later years, dad became a de facto father of his grandchildren: driving them to school and events and picking them back like a clock.

In the Autobiography category, I have described in length the hardship that dad and mother went through in Africa in order to provide for their children. This post is of a different nature: Maybe an occasion to vent a few of my pent up resentments.

Three years ago, dad suffered acute pneumonia and the hospital discovered totally ruined lungs from a lifetime of smoking that started at the age of 16. He smoked indoors and the family room stank like hell, but he didn’t care.

After coming home from a week of intensive care, dad resumed smoking. After each smoke he would feel dizzy and fall down, and I had to pick him up.

Mother and I endured his idiosyncrasies for another 3 years since he dreaded death like the plaque. He got totally hooked to the oxygen machine and the frequency of public electricity being out added to our trauma: We had to frequently wake up in order to turn on the interrupter to the private provider.

Dad was his own physician: He insisted to have two pills of Panadole at night, and then increased the dose to three. If we were reluctant, he would keep shouting until we satisfy his wishes, like a baby.

In the last 2 years, dad was practically bed-ridden: He would gather some energy in the morning and use his walker and very slowly reach his preferred lavatory to shave.  His shaving was totally uneven, but he had this habit of shaving every morning. The days he refused to shave meant that he was not feeling well.

And then he would get in bed and barely get up. He had a “small bladder” as we say and needed to visit the WC very frequently, tasks that exhausted him. So after lunch, dad would insist on being “wrapped up” so that he won’t have to get up for the day.

Unfortunately, dad needed to get up and walk a few yards at night, as far as the oxygen tube permitted, and to take a close look at his watch (a totally useless mania) and a situation that kept mother mostly awake at night.

Dad dreaded hospitals. Actually his heart and his blood tests showed that he was younger than adolescent kids. He never took any medicines for anything, except aspirin or something generic of mild pain killer.

Every time we had the Red Cross visit with us, the members had to convince dad that it is urgent for him to pay this visit to the hospital, just a general check up. Invariably, dad had to stay in the hospital for extended periods and even be wheeled to the intensive care unit.

A week ago, dad was unable to even sit down and we took him to the hospital on account that he won’t stay more than the morning. Dad had to be hospitalized after the physician suspected a mild brain stroke that affected his speech.

Dad was furious and he made so much trouble and raucous activities in his bed that the nurses had to tie him up in bed. We had to bring dad home prematurely: He wanted to die at home and in his bed. He had asked me to remove his wedding ring in the hospital as if he had a premonition that his days are counted.

The first day at home went on pretty smoothly and mother mouth fed him and he ate well enough, though he was completely bed ridden. He didn’t feel well at night. In the morning, dad was pretty quiet and barely responded to his grandchildren who came to visit him and try to coax him to stand up and walk a few steps.

Around 2 pm, dad was sleeping as usual with his mouth open. It took me and my nephew Cedric a while to realize that dad had passed away silently and in his sleep (or in coma). We were so uncertain that I brought in a glass to check on his breathing.

Dad had his habits and addictions. He kept smoking until he could no longer. He kept having his big glass of whisky every day before lunch until he started falling down and I had to pick him up. He kept driving way after he was 85 until he had no energy to drive with failing eyesight and hard of hearing conditions: The car had fallen completely apart and was beyond any repair.

I wish I had dad’s memory: He was still able to the last second to remember everyone who lived and died in Beit-Chabab, and enumerate the tree branches of each family. He could have been an excellent Moukhtar, but he refused my suggestion to present himself for election since he was entitled to represent his larger family by inheritance and by age.

Dad was consistent, stubborn and predictable. He never asked for our opinions since only his decision was valid and of any currency. Actually, I never recall we ever sat down to discuss anything or asked to proffer any opinion in all my life. I can voucher that neither my younger brother or sister ever had any discussion with dad.

This silent stubborn attitude might be the cause of a lingering sense of inferiority complex. I guess his eldest son didn’t show signs of high intelligence and entrepreneurship to sustain any illusion that George will be recognized as an illustrious personality.

And dad didn’t say anything bad about anybody: He kept his silence.

I think George had a sense of humor from the laughing crowd sitting with him, but he never demonstrated this talent among us.

My sense is that dad gave up raising his children and relegated this job to mother: all he had to do is provide.

Maybe the decision of having children was my mother’s wish and she spaced them to suit her workload and lengthy breast feeding period, extending beyond two years: since Africa was not a healthy place to try other kinds of milk taking. My brother used to go play soccer and then come to get his ration of breast milk till the age of 3.

I never  married and never felt mentally strong and ready to offer quality responsibility for my children: I plainly was not exposed and trained to care for offspring.

Dad was more literate than mother and more interested in world political conditions, but he lacked artistic talents. Mother was the artistic person in sewing and selecting the best garments from fashion catalogues. No one in the family was expose to artistic talent such as singing, dancing, painting, playing musical instrument… And the schools we attended were not geared toward any artistic classes. My sister found out her talent in interior decoration and became the main artistic decorator for her house, even though her husband retired Gen. Victor graduated as interior decorator.

It was our loss that dad failed to shoulder his responsibilities in communicating with us and teaching us a few of his experiences. At least would have been exposed to some verbal intelligence.

The children were whisked to their rooms when we had company and had no exposure to people interactions. We never attended any funeral ceremony or any saddening events. The totally sheltered kids from outside upheavals.

Dad never gave us any allowance, at least not to me. I saved whatever I was given on Christmas time and Palm Sunday to suffice my misery spending all year long. I was too proud and angry to demand from dad any allowances. I survived not building any sense for luxury. Though I suspect that dad gave allowances to other kids in the larger family who had lost their father or the father was away in Africa.

At the age of 20, and when we lived in Beirut, I started going out in the morning and frequently returning after 9 pm. I don’t recall my father or mother asking me how I spent my day. Probably they figured out that with my scarce money in the pocket I couldn’t go far or act mischievously or get into physical trouble.

Until the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, dad was considered a well-off person and had constructed a 3-floor building with natural stones. As usual, when he decide on something he become too impatient to liquidate: Like the ridiculous price for his house and shop in Sikasso (Rep. of Mali) or when he sold his shop in Ain Rumani.

Even when he was completely broke, he managed to give large tips to people who did some repairs, especially those people from the public water crew who were to clean the public pipe, and took the habit to come in three so enjoy the lavish tips for no work done. The only income was the monthly rent of the ground floor.

And dad sold mother’s jewellery in order to pay off the various militia for security, just to give the illusion that he was not that broke. Though everyone in the town knew the facts.

He paid quickly what he owed and in cash and never asked for what the others owed him. Sort of all our money is his and he can spend it the way he likes, as long as what property he owned is made in mother’s name.

A decade before he was practically bed-ridden, dad barely received visitors: People knew that we were broke. A few paid dad a visit once a year by the force of tradition. The immigrants who arrived for short visits made sure to come the day before they are to go back and stayed just a couple minutes on account that they are too busy and have to tend to tight schedule. All these visitors were at walking distances and there were no reasons to ignore dad in such a harsh fashion.

Only Edward used to come on Mondays when the weather was fine: Dad would use his walker to the sunny balcony and they would shoot the breeze for half an hour.

My nephew Cedric made it a habit to check on dad on Saturday and Sunday morning and we would sit down in the balcony, drinking coffee and eating sweets and chocolates. Being hard of hearing was a handicap for visiting relatives and many kind of gave up even on formality.

In the last couple of months, dad waited every morning on Cedric’s fiancé for her morning visit. If the weather was warm and sunny, we would sit on the southern large balcony, and Marie would patiently learn a few Lebanese words.

I am a person of irrational and sudden decisions: I leave everything behind and move on as light as can be. No planning, no job waiting, not amassing addresses or reserving  rooms and accommodation… I just go.

I don’t think age affected this behaviour of mine. That is why I burned all my bridges and ships in order Not to be tempted to leave on a whim, or at least to be forced to give plenty of advance notice.

I sold my car and saved money from running a car, I didn’t try to renew my passport or my driving licence, I stopped sending stupid CV… Just the life of a recluse, observing and slowly taking in what’s going around me. And writing about what I observed.

Many close relatives should have ample reasons to weep dad’s death: I don’t.

Many close relatives are endowed with enough imagination and memory to weep dad’s death: I lack imagination and I am a lousy actor. Fuck it.

I never wept so far, not for dad or anyone else.

In the last 2 decades, dad had plenty of time to brood over his life and reflect on his experiences, though he never shared any. I had time to brood too, and a few nights I tried to weep on myself to sleep.

Dad was born naked and he quit this world naked. Not a dollar to split

In that matter, I’m following dad’s footsteps.

All George’s grandchildren and children were present for the vacation and mother had all the emotional and practical support she wanted. A very lucky Georges, finally.

As we say “Do the good deeds and wash them in the ocean“. E3mol al kheir wa keb bil ba7r

A tribute? Good or bad, it is still a tribute.

This is a tribute to George Antoun Bouhatab.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

January 2015
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