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 10: Formidability is not infalliblity.

“I look formidable.”
~ Vin Diesel

For all the greatness, strength and capability that we human beings possess, it is but a sliver of humanity’s potential realized in that glorious moment of time. Yet, like the ripening of fruits culminating in its prime sweetness , nothing lasts forever.

A wise Roman philosopher-king called Marcus Aurelius once said that time is a like river, with that moment in time passing and then just as easily swept away by a new passing moment, never to return again.

Its the same with anything in life. Hence, we must be down to earth to realize that we must appreciate what we do have while prolonging it as sustainable as possible.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall.”
~ Joe Walcott

On this topic, there are many aspects of formidability to view from.

One of which is the appearance of being formidable, in that nothing is as formidable as we perceive it to be as everything has a weakness.

Another aspect is that formidability is sometimes confused with invulnerability and infuses ourselves with confidence undeserving of our aptitude. Of those full of themselves, they create the beginning of their end in that overconfidence is but a slow and insidious killer, to those who understand the reference.

Oppositely, the perception of formidability is another weapon of the mind to conjure to dissuade rivals while presenting ourselves in a good light.

Regardless, formidability has its creativity uses in the hands of a master.

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 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.

 

 

Maxim 3: 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.

Maxim 2: 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.