Our life is our responsibility, no one else’s.

“The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily”
~ Plato

One of the hardest and harshest truths of human life is the earnest realization that the relationship between the quality and enjoyment of one’s life is proportional to how much we ourselves take real responsibility for our own individual life in all its aspects.

This excerpt (to those who are familiar with it, you’ll understand where it is from) best explains what I intend to convey and I am in no way the creator of it..

“It is human nature to seek culpability in a time of tragedy. It is a sign of strength to cry out against fate, rather than to bow one’s head and succumb…”

I have seen (and perhaps you would have too) how people would happily blame and attribute their failure to progress in life towards elements beyond their control such as the economy, environment, destiny, other people and more. I have seen how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for these very people, making themselves victims of circumstances rather than giving themselves the responsibility of changing their life and doing anything they can about it. They become so used to this litany of misery and despondency in mistaking it as a sign of defiance and perceived strength, that anything else is to be scorned, even if it leads to what they actually want in life. This then becomes their reality. This then seals their fate.

While external forces can influence how we would act towards progressing in life, that does not mean that as individuals, we have no less autonomy, strength and freedom to take the steps necessary to progress towards where we want to go, even if sometimes we may not be sure as to what it is that we seek. Even so, we can always have the freedom to explore what we want to do in life.

In light of what was said, no where in life is it stated that we must assume the responsibilities of others. A better way to say it is that we are not being paid to do the responsibilities of others at work. If that is the way at work, then that too can be used for life itself.

“Responsibility is the price of greatness.”
~ Winston Churchill

Above all else, we must realize that at the end of the day, no one else truly cares ever more so about your dreams and aspirations than we ourselves as individuals. Only we as individuals can imagine the heights and weights of our respective dreams. Never prostrate and compromise one’s dreams to the point they are lost whether to your society, strangers, peers or even friends and family. Callous and bitter as these cynical words are, the despair of regret and depression of not striving hard enough in achieving what we want is an ever more callous and bitter reality to one. Only you will regret what could, might and should have been the life you lead. Should we fail, we only have ourselves to blame in the end. Should we succeed, not only will we achieve that we have set out to do in our dreams, we will perhaps go the distance perhaps beyond anything that we could have imagined.

“While his heart still beats, while his flesh still moves, I cannot accept that a being endowed with will-power can give in to despair.”
~ from JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1864) by Jules Verne

To end it, as long as we can still move forward, then we have no excuse not to. As a character in a book once said “mostly dead is slightly alive.”

While there is no certainty of where we might go and what we might achieve, the fact that there is always the possibility of doing so, makes it all the more worthwhile and fulfilling of human existence.

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Value is Subjective

The nature of value is subjective to every person. This means that the value of something will mean differently to each individual. That something can be anything include goods, services, experiences, people and more.

For simplicity’s sake and easy understanding, value would be underlined from the frame of a business perspective though it can be applied on anything in our lives.

According to the Wikipedia entry on value:

The subjective theory of value is a theory of value which advances the idea that the value of a good is not determined by any inherent property of the good, nor by the amount of labor necessary to produce the good, but instead value is determined by the importance an acting individual places on a good for the achievement of his desired ends.

In short, it is the buyer that determines the subjective value of something. However, that is not usually the case. In that, the seller then does the utmost to influence the perception or perspective of the buyer to frame the value of that something in the highest regards if possible. Thus, the seller profits as much as possible from the transaction while the buyer feels as emotionally validated as possible with their purchase of the goods, service, experience or more.

While economics explains that consumers make purchases in a rational and logical manner, in reality people can be just plain irrational with their purchases due to emotions and psychological reasons.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Warren Buffett

Never is it more evident with the Paradox of Value (Diamond-Water Paradox) found in economics. This is Wikipedia’s explanation on it:

The paradox of value (also known as the diamond–water paradox) is the apparent contradiction that, although water is on the whole more useful, in terms of survival, than diamonds, diamonds command a higher price in the market. The philosopher Adam Smith is often considered to be the classic presenter of this paradox, although it had already appeared as early as Plato’s Euthydemus.

In reality, diamonds are only valuable because you have been socially conditioned to perceive it as valuable. If one were to actually think about it, diamonds are just shiny rocks. That’s it. Thus, you will be paying exorbitant sums of money to acquire a shiny rock. Think about it.

That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”
Thomas Paine

Even more vexing is that, when we have purchased the diamond with that huge sum of money, we feel even better about it because that is the worth we have exchanged for it, thinking it is an equal exchange. Pushing aside the veils of unreasoning and our bias, do you actually think its worth it now?

Now, assuming the same diamond is priced at a lower price. People would actually feel less good about their decision to purchase it compared to a higher price. Now, isn’t that ridiculous?

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
― Oscar Wilde 

Now, considering all of the above and the quote by Oscar Wilde, let’s think about it for a moment. Isn’t it so ironic that some of us have the inability to distinguish the value of anything without a price-tag?

For instance, there are things that are beyond priceless and valuable such as our sense of sight, the ability to work, earnest friendships, family, love, health, peace and more? Perhaps even the small comforts in life we take for granted, where in reality those small comforts are so much more valuable than the most expensively priced items in the world. The food on our table, the home we live in, clean running water, a bed to sleep in, a computer with Internet connection and more.

Knowing this, we can be more aware of bias and consciously act differently.  Firstly, you have to reevaluate your frame of perception or perspective towards anything in general. In essence, you have to ask yourself what truly matters in your life and realize that there are some things in life we can live without. Besides, the items we own do not define us. Rather it is what we think, feel and do that actually defines our identity and meaning in this world.

Second, you have to distinguish the real value against the cost or effort of acquiring that something. How does this item give value to you and in what way?

By doing these two actions, we’ll be able to receive better value against cost while  truly enriching our lives not just in terms of wealth but in all aspects of life.

Till the next time.

Self-interest Must Be Aligned

“Even wisdom has to yield to self-interest.”
~ Pindar

Very early on, during an economics class, I had a lecturer explain during class that the economy and market works because of self-interest. He was very explicit and direct in mentioning that self-interest is not the same as selfishness. At the time, I was coming to terms along to the same line of thought and it was refreshing for someone else to say that.

In that, I learned to redefine what selfishness meant. In my book, selfishness refers to self-interest that harms or exploits others with actual consequences.

“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”
~ Napolean

Let’s be frank. Everyone has their own self-interest. We are our own individuals. Early on, people have very similar needs like those stated at the bottom sections of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. As people progress upwards, diverging wants exist due to self-interest of different individuals.

Now here’s the main point.

Self-interest is not inherently good or bad. It is what it is.

It is like politics, science, education, tools and more. Self-interest is like a hammer. A hammer can be used for good or bad. A hammer can be used to build something new or it can be used to harm or even kill. The consequences of using the hammer then depend on the intentions of the wielder.

As such, we must learn to realize that mastering and understanding not only our self-interest but the self-interest of others is the key to success and getting everything that we want.

Here’s a link on how to use self-interest to mutual advantage. It’s a 11-minute video by “Charisma on Command” on why Tyrion is such a master at surviving and getting people to do what they want. I highly recommend to watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMliNd2b2K0

We hope the world will act in the spirit of enlightened self-interest.
~ Atal Bihari Vaijpayee

After mastering it, the best we can aspire to is enlightened self-interest or rationality. Enlightened self-interest means that we’ll pursue our self-interests while taking into consideration that we do not harm and exploit others to their loss for our self-gain. In fact, enlightened self-interest means not only pursuing our self-interest but to improve the lives of others. Think of the inventor of the polio vaccine who didn’t patent it. His self-interest was seeing the betterment of humanity altogether. Such selflessness is merely the fulfillment of a higher self-interest. That being said, we are not heroes and saints. The more plausible thing we can aspire to do and achieve is a win-win situation for both ourselves and others.

However, we must understand that sometimes, our self-interest will hurt others unconsciously and unintentionally. That said, we shouldn’t stop there. We must ensure that we do our best to do things with the best of intentions for ourselves while not harming or exploiting others. If it happens, the best we can do is be unapologetic and continue as we must first take care of ourselves first, last and always.

Till the next time.