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.

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A fish is the last to acknowledge the existence of water.

“The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.”
~ Alan Watts
Let’s set the scene.

There are fish. They swim in a fishbowl full of water. They swim back and forth while interacting with each other.

There is a person observing the fishes and wondering if the fishes consciously realizes they are in water and whether they understand the importance of water to their very survival.

That’s the framed scene in question that we are thinking about today. It is not important to determine if the fishes do realize that, only that we have now created this analogy in our minds.

Based on my understanding and reading, this analog appears to originate from a translation of a African proverb. Another origin is from the works of academics and writers, most famously written by the late David Foster Wallace.

While you may then argue that fish do not have the same cognitive capability, intellectual know-how and self-awareness to even ponder about their situation, it provides a suitable analogy for us to then channel towards people in turn.

Now, let’s bring our attention to people and frame it as such.

There is a crowd of people going about their day-to-day business. Most of which would lead ordinary lives and be ordinary people. Many of which would perhaps realize and acknowledge the situation, premise and reality of which they live in but will more likely than not, will never question it.

Here, people live their lives in invisible societal or cultural bubbles. In cross-cultural management studies and teachings, lecturers and academicians like to normally cite about cultural bubbles in which people of one society live in. This phenomena becomes very visible (at the very least, people become self-aware of it) when.. people from a different culture experience a different culture altogether. In that, cross-cultural managers are actually recommended to learn more about their own culture so they can understand what differentiates their own society’s culture from others. To put it metaphorically, get a fish to develop a taste for differentiating different waters. Even in the same general culture or society, there are different sub-cultures due to regional differences.

While there are no qualms with the good virtues that a society practices, it is the flaws and behaviours that we now draw our attention to. It is these things that require changing.

Interestingly, the behaviours of people can be quite ironic. Unlike the fishes, human beings possess the potential to develop intellectual acumen, self-consciousness and the reasoning required to understand the bubble they are in.

In fact, some people may sometimes be consciously aware of it. However, few people have the force of will, discipline, intellectual prowess and humility or even audacity to have the the self-awareness to realize and analyze themselves in this invisible bubble. As it stands, people would more likely submit themselves to societal and cultural norms because they believe the importance of the majority precedes the importance of the individual. If not that, they would be following their unconscious instinctive nature found in humanity’s ancestors.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Now that we realize this, we would think that after knowing the said phenomena, we would be positioned to inform people about it so society would change for the better. Let’s not kid ourselves. It won’t happen.

In a perfect world where people have the intellectual self-awareness to reflect and understand themselves alongside the society they live in, this would be a piece of cake. However, we don’t live in that world and people can be horribly irrational, even me. Pointing that out would make people even more adamant to not change as it has been internalized by themselves. The best way to make people realize it is to indeed point it out but make them question it themselves, while pointing them in the right direction from time to time.

To end, all we can do is show them the way and its their decision whether or not they are willing to explore that open path. Most importantly, it is to we ourselves that we should realize this, be aware of it and consciously strive to change ourselves for the better, whether or not it aligns with the norms of our society. Lastly, become an exemplar that makes people want to follow you, thus inciting the very change we perhaps were hoping for.

Till the next time.

For further reading:

Its not what was said, its what who said it.

If you’ve been around the block of life, you’d realized something ridiculous, in that its not what was said that matters, its what who said it that matters.

This brought me to a terrifying conclusion.

Most people don’t know value when it stares them right in their bloody faces. Not because the item or whatever it may be in question is not valuable, rather it is because people need to be told what is valuable rather than think for themselves at all what is valuable or not.

We all have rose-tinted glasses. Some people just keep wearing them while others have the courage to remove them and see how things should be seen.

Wisdom is everywhere if you know where to see and if you have the humility to see where other eyes see not.

Oppositely, play this to your advantage. Become a person of such immense value and influence through your sheer hard work, others will lap at your feet for your immeasurable and hard-earned wisdom.

Its not how you’d want it but that’s how most people work. Realize this and use this understanding so you’ll go far.