Maxim 11: It is better to be in a position to give than in a position to receive.

“Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.”
~ Christopher Marlowe

We have most likely heard this saying in that it is better to give than to receive. Regardless of its origins, it presupposes that the act of giving is held better in regard than the act of receiving, most highly regarded by those of religious virtues and values.

However, an article or excerpt from a book once read prior once exclaimed that the actual saying is said as it is better to be in a position to give than in a position to receive.

This axiom tells us that being in an advantageous position is much more worthy than being in a disadvantageous position. Indeed, we are then ascribing ourselves to another maxim which is it is better to err on the side of caution.

Let’s think about the incomplete version. If it is so good to give, then why don’t we all give others everything we have in our due possession? Why do we then hold valuables, materials and holdings rather than giving it away?

Simply because we are unconsciously following the complete axiom. No matter what we call ourselves, we will always be beings with the sense of self-preservation and self-interest. It is encoded in our nature to protect well-being first and foremost before all others. To put ourselves in a precarious position is plain insane by any form of standard, whether it is instinctively or rationally (unless there is something to gain, even then a calculated risk). In such an advantageous position, we are in control and able to dictate our terms to our most favourable outcome. Besides, we then have the means to negotiate an even better position compared to anyone else.

Regardless of it all, we would always remember we should always be in a position to give, but that never means that we should neither give or not give. Besides, that also means that being in a position to give is no obligation for us to give to others unless we deem it prudent or our consciousness dictates so.

Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.”
~ Lewis Thomas

Much of our behaviours today originate from our ancestors. In that,  we are in-tuned with our instinctive nature to be in an advantageous position to maximize our chances of survival and in-turn the opportunity to reproduce. While this may sound cynical, it is what it is and by no means it is limited to this view. Societies have a propensity to help each other through sheer acts of altruism in which yes, it is better to give than to receive in that the act of altruism is for the greater good for our society.

With that said, humanity still has the will to freedom to do as it chooses. To do so, we must always be aware of our nature to then understand it and finally mater ourselves and others, for the greater good.

Further Reading:

Maxim 9: Virtue of hardwork; opportunity or obstacle.

“I learned the value of hard work by working hard.”
~ Margaret Mead

At some point in our lives, we would murmur to ourselves how unfair life is.

I digress. Life is fair in its unfairness in that people always have the freedom and opportunity to pursue what they want to and to rise above their situations to be better. By remembering we always have the freedom to choose our attitude and actions in life, we can forge our destiny and give meaning to it, as Viktor E. Frankl once mentioned. While the uncertainty of achieving success is constant, the possibility that dreams can come through will ultimately spur is on to success and ongoing effort.

 

“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
~ Ann Landers

Someone or some article once said that success is like a brick wall. The brick wall symbolizes obstacles and challenges. Besides, the brick wall was there to determine who was worthy of success by the mere fact of who was more willing to exert effort to scale that brick wall.

That brick wall separates people who achieve their dreams and those who put them off till its too late while being subjected in creating the dreams of others. That brick wall is a measure of character, integrity and determination of an individual in how worthy they are to receive greatness and success. That brick wall is ultimately a reflection of an individual’s ability to be utterly honest and modest with their own will and situation in life.

“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.”
~ Joshua Waitzkin

The reality of life informs us that talent is cheap, while hard work is invaluably priceless. Talent is merely the seed of greatness while hard work manifests that greatness.

Too often, we believe that success is dependent on one’s predetermined fate as most people would believe. More often than not, that success is determined on one’s ability to realize that humanity has something special, the ability to imagine and realize realities that haven’t yet existed. That special something is perhaps the commonality that the good and great of humanity have realized consciously or unconsciously.

Yet, imagination and talent alone is pointless. Hence, the value of hard work then becomes evident. There is no silver bullet to success (though there are roads and vehicles that bring close the distance between where we are and where we want to be).

“Dreams don’t work unless you do”
~ John C. Maxwell

In the end, hard work is as it is. Yet, should any of us be stalwart in harnessing it, the stuff of legends and history would be made manifest and becomes us.

Maxim 6: Everything has a beginning and end.

For all the greatness that humanity can do, that doesn’t mean that very greatness would indeed last forever. Only time and eternity are companions of forever.

This poem best expresses this notion..

Horace Smith’s “Ozymandias”

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place

History has shown time and time again the rise and fall of human civilizations long past  from their dawn, their peak in their golden age and the embers of their fire in its twilight.

This then teaches us an important lesson. That nothing lasts forever. As such, we must cherish and use the good of what we do have now especially while it lasts. Besides, the second best thing we can hope for is to preserve or prolong that which we want to last. One example is the warmth and vitality of youth as even that energy will diminish over the passage of time.

Some ways to immortalize or at least preserve that which we hold dear is through mediums. One of my motivations of writing this is to preserve the knowledge, experience and wisdom acquired over the years for not only my referral and sharing with the world, but to ensure I leave behind a legacy, no matter what it might be. At least then, I will have something that will mark my passing into the unknown beyond, by which people will remember me and gain an understanding of what I have gone through.

“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
~ Max Planck

Nevertheless, I digress that falls and ends are bad. Rather, they are merely what they are. As such, it is up to us to see the good or bad of everything including ends. While ends are sometimes seen as something bad, ends actually precipitate new beginnings that promises unknown glories and achievements of events and people yet to come.

Besides, endings are found in the conclusions of books, movies and more. Similarly applicable for them and for life itself, without an end, everything becomes stagnant and prevents renewal as the status quo remains undisputed. It is like what Max Planck attempts to carry across through his quote. While the context of it differs, the essence remains understandable in what I’m attempting to convey.

To aptly end this, I leave here a quote by Senaca..

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
~ Seneca

Maxim 5: 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.

Maxim 4: Everything is Judged by its Appearance; What is Unseen counts for Nothing.

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.

~ Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power)

Appearance is everything. It is what it is. It is how people instinctively and naturally behave. You may have seen it when people judge the value and worth of a product or services merely by what they can just see rather than fully evaluating it. This could be through presentation, packaging, advertisements, events, spokesperson and more.

“People care much more for how things look than how things are.”
― Donna Lynn Hope

Have you ever wondered, why is appearance or the illusion or perception of appearance so important to people even though appearances can be misleading or even deceiving?

There is one possibility from reading about a branch of psychology  called “Evolutionary  Psychology” that I think and feel is relevant here.

Science Daily defines it as:

“A theoretical approach to psychology that attempts to explain useful mental and psychological traits—such as memory, perception, or language—as adaptations, i.e., as the functional products of natural selection.”

The basis of evolutionary psychology lies with our ancestors. During humanity’s earliest societies, one might ask, how would early humans judge something or someone? Through our five senses and in my opinion, the most important sense is sight.

For instance, say two groups from two different tribes met each other. At the time, humans did not have verbal or written languages. So, how would early humans know if the other group had cordial or hostile intentions? Through observing body language and whatever else they can see. This can also include the clothes worn and how ornamental it was. This may seem overly obvious to most of us, but we always need reminding time and time again, appearance counts for nearly everything.

Based on the above,  one group could denote who the leader of the other group was and vice-versa. They could also denote the difference between a tribal leader or a tribal shaman. As this trait become evermore valuable, evolution allowed this trait to be retained till today. However, while evolution may have encouraged humanity’s survival, it can also have adverse and harmful side effects.

One example is the Coolidge Effect whereby humans would feel more arousal for new mates rather than old mates. The Coolidge Effect can be seen when males watch pornography. Due to the never ending images of different and beautiful women, its no wonder addiction in men can happen. While this trait may have been useful in ensuring men procreate with women before the Internet, this trait can be abused too.

Its the same with appearance, as judging the situation, person or item as they are based on what we actually see can be plain deceptive. Packaging on products can make a sub-standard product seem like a premium product. Clothes can make an ordinary man appear to be larger than life. Promotions and ads can make a service seem so much more valuable, thus making us perceive it has higher value.

Three more reasons we’re susceptible to our perceptions of appearance are due to:

  • The theory of bounded rationality states that humans are incapable of processing all the information needed to make well-informed decisions and instead take the most important information from what is available at the time to inform their decision.
  • Inclination towards emotions whereby most people would rather behave emotionally than think logically or rationally as it is instinctive and easier to do.
  • Cognitive bias whereby whenever something interferes with our belief system or ego, people would rather be blind and ignore whatever it is that tries to disrupt our internal frame of mind than to be objective about it and think clearly.

“Appearances are often deceiving.”
~ Aesop

Considering the above, thus we must balance the duality of using appearances to our advantage and to be careful with appearances to avoid being exploited or deceived. Create yourself to seem larger than life and you will have the world at your fingertips. Meanwhile, by being objective and remember that appearances must be a reflection of substance and value, we can avoid deception and trickery. Only then can we determine is valuable and what isn’t.

Till next time.