Success

You don’t know who you are

You will never completely know or understand who you are. There’s a whole unknown you floating in your subconscious that only shows itself through dreams and surreal moments when you act in ways you thought you never would or could.  In some ways it represents your potential and depending on how you develop yourself that potential could be amazing, but it could also be disastrous.  Sigmund Freud would probably say that trying to get to know yourself on this level is trying to get more in touch with your Id and Super-Ego at the same time.

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“There are no mistakes.”

It’s a bit ironic actually, because the Ego (the moderator between those two) can be such a robust and confident thing when it really has no right to be.  The truth is we spend the majority of our lives trying to figure ourselves out (and that’s okay!)  I should actually say that the smart folks spend their days trying to better figure themselves out.  Unfortunately far too many people are busy looking outward than inward.  So they define things (especially the shitty stuff) by what their environment and those that inhabit it have shown them, instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing in that environment to begin with.

Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that people are often born into very unfortunate environments and circumstances.  As I’ve illustrated in previous posts, my own circumstances weren’t exactly roses and rainbows.  Some people don’t get to learn about themselves. It’s Maslow’s pyramid and they don’t make it past the first level.

An old friend of mine and I were discussing Maslow’s pyramid the other day and it both complimented and derailed what I intended to write about.  For those of you uninitiated, the essential idea is that human needs and progression happen on five levels.  The base of this pyramid are basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex (though.. I believe this transcends a bit… let’s call it “reproduction”,) oxygen, etc.

Once you’ve got your basic needs covered,the next level involved safety on every level.  Protection from the elements, security in your job/income/lifestyle, and basic personal safety.  All the things that lay the foundation for some level of confidence in your life.  But once you get all that figured out, you get to start on the advanced stuff.

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“Shit.. was that level 1 or level 3?”

Level three of Maslow’s pyramid consists of social developmental needs. This fuels the desire for popularity in high school and then evolves into being accepted and respected by your peers at work while simultaneously developing friendship, intimacy (there’s that sex again!), affection and, of course, love in your personal life.  Each step of this pyramid can be a life-long endeavor for many individuals, but I would wager that a very large percentage get stuck here (including, it seems, me.)

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to achieve any of these levels in any sort of traditional manner to begin work on the next level.  Hell, I’m relatively sure you don’t even have to make it halfway.  As long as you have a basic understanding of achievement on any given level, you can probably grasp the next level as well.  But that’s dangerous, because the point of the pyramid is to illustrated how to form a solid foundation for each level and building on an unfinished foundation can (obviously) end up in disaster.

But let’s say you jump to the next level and go for the really advanced stuff. Level four of Maslow’s pyramid is all about going from being accepted, to leading and transcending the pack.  Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others are the needs this level presents.  By this time, you’ve figured out how to play the game of life, and now you need to do better than just play well, you need to excel at it.

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Maslow’s pyramid for the modern age.

Should you manage to develop yourself to the point of excelling at life in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want your peers to recognize about you, you’re ready for the supposed pinnacle of the pyramid: Total self-actualization. Now we’re getting into super-human territory that involves setting world records, becoming billionaires, scaling Mt. Everest, or becoming the President. Fortunately for a fair percentage of the people who are trying to fulfill this need also realize this potential by helping others find their way up the pyramid.  On the flip-side though, this is where the world’s absolute worst humans do the worst damage.

The point of that quick overview though was to illustrate a point: you’ll never reach total self-actualization because you will never completely know and understand yourself.  Even if you somehow thought you did, you can’t, because it’s fluid.  That’s actually one of the great joys of life.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity is it’s fluidity and adaptability.  Some very smart, very enlightened people close to me struggle with this a lot and admittedly I do as well because it’s frankly exhausting if you don’t step back to recognize it for what it really is: growth.  Not only is it growth, but it’s advanced growth that only a certain percentage of people in the world have the luxury of knowing.

It’s a given that people reach the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid all the time, but as I

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Oh…

mentioned earlier, a lot of those people left an essential level undeveloped… some skipped it entirely and paid for it.  They are easy to see, the people who seem to have everything, experienced so much, but are still miserable.  They act out, break down, and sometimes die far too early and sometimes by their own hand.

The point in all this psycho-babble is that I’ve realized that the biggest mistake we can make is attempting to rush through or force our personal development.  We seek to master our environment and to balance that out we must seek to master ourselves.  But both are fluid and can never really be mastered, so we have to realize that it’s enough to continue learning, continue developing and build our foundations strong on each level so we have a solid base when we someday reach the top of our own personal pyramid.

You don’t know who you are, and you never will, but the point is continuing to get to know yourself.  When you do, you get to the fun part: Being pleasantly surprised and amazed at what you can do… and then being able to live happily with it.

 

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Cycles: The circles within the circles within a circle of life…

They say that history repeats.  Well, it does.  In fact life repeats.  Over and over again.  In the creative industry there’s a joke (it’s not really a joke) that a good design is something you saw somewhere and changed just enough (I think the agree percentage is approximately 20% but don’t quote me on that) to call it your original work.  It’s fitting though because your life is currently doing the exact same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, obviously on the surface things change.  I’m not saying that whatever god you do or do not believe in is a lazy artist.  We grow, places change, faces change, everything changes.  It’s a depressing constant knowing that basically anything you love or grow attached to will inevitably end.  However, while that’s true on the surface, the truth is you’ve been doing a large number of the same things over and over again throughout these changes.  Thus is your cycles and you will repeat these cycles over and over again until you stop doing the same things, until you learn from that cycle and then break it using your newfound knowledge.  Then a new cycle with a new lesson begins and so on and so on.

Nothing circular here... carry on...

Nothing circular here… carry on…

Cycles are not just personal though, they come in all shapes in sizes.  The state of our planet, even our universe and those beyond are in the mists of cycles that most people can’t even begin to wrap their head around.  The evidence is everywhere, nearly every major function of a system from life itself to the state of energy is in essence circular (if you were to chart it.)  So from massive cosmic cycles that take thousands or millions of years to complete all the way down to your own daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or decades long cycles, the world is repeating and everything you do feeds into it on some level.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to bring about real change in the world?  Well, think about how hard it is to change one little habit about yourself, and then multiply that by over seven billion, and then factor in that you’d have to get a pretty large percentage of those seven billion on board with said change at the same time.  It’s starting to sound like rocket science, but it’s not.  But it is hard (I mean look at congress for god’s sake… and that’s only 535 people!!)  I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but I honestly can’t fathom anything short of global catastrophe (or enlightenment?) affecting a change that large.  And so many of the world’s woes that might easily be solved with our abundance of resources and technology… are not.

What I decided in my infinite selfishness is that the best thing I can do is try not to be part of the problem.  That means being actively self-aware, and trying to manage and break my own cycles in order to keep growing.  I’ve failed miserably at romance for nearly a decade, so obviously I haven’t figured that one out yet (despite having a much more solid sex life than many…) but I’ve made good progress in other areas like career development and not being an ignorant drone (always a plus.)  So in order to break your cycles and learn your lessons (hopefully gracefully) the first step is figuring out how to recognize them.

A bit like this.

A bit like this.

In every cycle you will find key similarities.  The trick is to ignore the surface and look for the situational similarities.  For instance, for each round of a specific cycle of my life, there is always one girl that we’ve all but agreed to hook up at some point, but due to circumstances, it never actually happens.  It’s not casual, it’s blatant, like “Well that should’ve happened right then but didn’t because… random occurrence.”   There is always that specific role that is played.  So as soon as I recognize that person, I can try to figure out what that’s trying to teach me, and carry on differently than I did before (or, if I don’t care to break that aspect of the cycle, not.)  Also, there’s always a “Jessica”, and they always play a key non-primary role in my major cycle.  This is complicated because obviously there’s all kinds of Jessicas running around in the world, but once they find their way into my world I can usually tell who it is specifically that will play that role.  Then based on that I can figure out where I am in that cycle by looking at previous events and comparing them to how things are shaping up now.

I realize that all of this sounds obscure, and a little silly, but I invite you to take a look around and recognize the similarities between what you have done and what you are doing.  Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s not simply a matter of small things like biting your nails or showering at night. When the world throws the same situations at you over and over again, and they don’t really end great, it’s really powerful to be able to realize it and choose to make a change.  That sort of awareness is what allows you to break the cycle and grow.  When you get good at recognizing them, you can choose to keep some intact and break others.  Every time you break a cycle, you create a new one and you can evaluate whether it’s good for you or not and what to do about it.

I believe this is the actual secret to success in this world.  The law of attraction feeds into this as well, since your thoughts (positive and negative) are what affect these cycles.  Those who have an abundance of money, love, power or what have you, have developed the cycles that keep bringing these things to them.  Whether they are aware of it or not, they are maintaining certain cycles while disciplining themselves to break those that go agains them.  However, sometimes not recognizing their cycles has cause these people to lose things as quickly as they gained them.  A bad decision can just as easily break a good cycle as the right one can break a bad cycle.  So think about your life, recognize your cycles and go to work figuring out what you need to do to keep the good ones and break the bad ones.  Temporarily, change can be uncomfortable and even painful, but if you understand why it’s necessary, and the good things to come, it’s a lot easier to accept.