Category Archives: Happiness

The Recipe for Student Success – Ingredient Two : Perseverance

The second ingredient to student success is Perseverance. On the surface, perseverance and passion may seem alike.

Perhaps you’ve experienced it before. You quickly develop passion over something, a new hobby, project or interest, and you fervently try to find out as much as you can about it. You buy all of the equipment, the books, you watch videos and read how-to’s. And then you try doing the thing you are passionate about. And then, you find, you’re probably not that good at it. “That’s ok”, you tell yourself, “it’s because I’m a beginner”. So you keep trying… but you keep failing, or it doesn’t work out quite how you wanted it to. After a while, you can’t use the beginner excuse anymore, and so you conclude that you’re not good enough, or it wasn’t for you, so you give up. And then you move on.

The passion was long gone. But what would have happened if you had persevered? You never know, you may have been great at it. How many things have you started, had you not given up, you would have been brilliant at? You could have been amazing, fantastic even extraordinary.

You need passion to get you started. But after the passion has died down a little, and the voices of criticism start to creep in, that’s when you need perseverance to pull you through. When everyone, even yourself, is telling you to give up, to stop wasting time, as long as there is a tiny voice still inside you saying “I don’t want to, I’m onto something”, perseverance will drive you to your destination, if you let it.

I wish there was an easy five step method for making up some perseverance. But the truth is, there isn’t. The only thing that can help you during difficult times is simply sheer willpower. Just knowing that if you carry on, keep going and practising, that you’ll eventually get there. But, here are five great people that I would bet you’ve heard of. Each of them failed many times, but you know their names because their perseverance pushed them to greatness.

1. Michael Jordan missed more than 9000 shots in his career. He has lost almost 300 games and was trusted 26 times to take the game winning shot but missed. And yet he is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”. – Michael Jordan

2. Bill Gates invested his own money into his first business, a project called Traf-O-Data. The project flopped. After many trials and tribulations, Bill Gates when on to create, well you know, Microsoft.

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”. – Bill Gates

3. Thomas Edison made thousands of wrong attempts before he was able to create a working light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. – Thomas A. Edison

4. Abraham Lincoln failed in business many times in his life, as well as having lost nominations for political position half a dozen times. Not to mention the loss of his sweetheart at the age of 26 and suffering a nervous breakdown at 27.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other”. – Abraham Lincoln

5. J.K. Rowling was rejected by twelve publishing companies for Harry Potter, which went on to become the best known children’s (and adult’s) story in the world.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default”. – J.K. Rowling

Some of the things you’re doing might be on the difficult side. Student life may be getting tough. You might not be doing so well, or you may be failing all over the place, but take it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and don’t give up. Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

How Minimalism Redefines Success

‘Success’ is a loaded word these days. It can mean anything—fame, fortune, connections, owning a huge house, or a second car, or a walk-in wardrobe.

In other words, success nowadays is about what you own. To many people, if you have most, or all, of the above, you’re considered successful. If not, you’re probably a failure.

People spend their whole lives trying to live up to these expectations. Everyday, they work hard at their jobs to earn money to add to their pile of stuff. They get into debt, or never pay off the debt they already have, and with every promotion, they upgrade to more expensive things (a bigger house, or the latest gadget). And so the cycle continues of money in/money out every month, without stopping to think, ‘Why am I doing this? Does this make me successful? Does this make me happy?

Here’s the answer: No. You cannot be happy trapped in a rat race. Spending the best years of your life collecting more and more expensive things isn’t going to make you feel fulfilled, especially if you hate your job. Going through ‘the daily grind’ until you’re 65 will only lead to you realising that you’ve grown old without accomplishing much except (at best) a big inheritance tax bill.

It doesn’t have to be like this. What if we could redefine success, so that instead of being about what you own, it’s about what you do, and who you are?

If you could leave the world a better place than before you came, wouldn’t you want to? Why waste your one precious life living up to other people’s expectations, when you could live up to your own?

what is success?

“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this massive universe, we are just one tiny speck against the infinity of time and space. Our life can be over in a blink of an eye. There’s nothing we can do about that, except make our blip of a lifetime worth something.

Buying stuff for yourself won’t make your life matter—doing something amazing will. Being your true self will.

What does that mean exactly? The answer is different for everyone. If your inner self is a painter, writer, dancer or singer, you know the answer. If you hate your job, then find one you enjoy that actually makes a difference. For me, being my true self means ditching my job, and becoming financially free so that I can travel, write, spend time with those I love, help people, and complete my bucket list.

Minimalism is about getting rid of distractions. When you don’t care about what other people think, you stop wasting your money, time, and effort on meaningless things. You stop blaming other people and start looking at yourself. You wake up to what’s really important.

With that, success means something completely different. Minimalism helps you remember what you’re living for.

In Praise of Quiet Moments

We tend to measure life by our memories. The most joyful or devastating, exciting or stressful, interesting or hard fought for milestones, from one to the next, they stand out the most in our minds.

These are the things we go out of our way to do, to plan for, to work for, to pay for. Advertising encourages us to fit as many ‘experiences’ as we can cram into our lives. When the big moment arrives, we take photos on our smartphones, upload to social media, even journal or tell our friends and children about it.

We remember these events for years, but everything else in between is forgotten.

What did you do on an typical Tuesday afternoon? Or a quiet Thursday evening? Or a routine Sunday morning? It may seem unimportant, but what if the ordinary in-between moments are just as powerful as the extraordinary ones?

Who knew that a regular day sitting on the sofa with my grandmother, half watching TV while sharing some fruit would be the last time I saw her alive? Nothing lasts forever, not even the mundane. Everything will pass, whether you notice it or not.

Indeed, it is a practice to be as grateful for the journey as the destination. It’s not easy to give our limited attention to the unremarkable moments, but they probably make up about 90% of our daily lives. If we live a good life with multiple journeys to multiple destinations, what kind of fulfilment would we have if we only appreciated 10% of it?

So maybe in a month’s time I won’t remember this moment—sipping my coffee as I write this, the smell of it waking me up to the sound of the city going by outside my window on this sunny July morning—but I can enjoy it right now, thoroughly and gratefully, for everything it’s worth.

On Vanity — How Valuable Things Can Actually Be Worthless

Why do we buy stuff? Not everything we buy is useful, so there must be other reasons why we work so hard to buy things.

Maybe it’s because we find a sense of happiness or satisfaction when we buy something new, but we all know that that feeling soon fades (even though we almost never remember this every time we buy something new).

Why we buy stuff has less to do with the object itself than with ourselves. When we buy expensive clothes, the newest gadgets or a flashy car, it’s because we believe it will give us recognition from the people around us—we’ll ‘show’ them how successful we are so that they’ll accept us, or even love us.

Humans crave recognition. To be part of a group, or at least not be in some else’s shadow. Most people are more influenced by what other people think of them than what they actually want ourselves.

Think about it—if everyone in the world disappeared tomorrow and you were the only one left (apart from the upset you would have from losing your friends and loved ones) what would you do now that you could have anything you desired?

You could just walk into someone’s mansion, even the most beautiful castle, and have it all to yourself. You could pick and choose anyone’s finest clothing and jewellery, even put on the crown if you wanted to! Drive a Ferrari, swim in bank notes, have hundreds of iPhones. But after a while, what would happen? With no one to impress, the chances are that you’ll find somewhere more convenient and easier to maintain than a huge house, you’ll wear clothes that are more comfortable, you’ll drive something more practical and you’ll get bored of the latest gadget.

Things you thought were worth a lot won’t matter as much any more. You’re the last person on earth, there’s nothing left but to find something worthwhile to do, something that makes you happy, not anyone else.

If no one was around to validate our existence, as society has defined by how much stuff we have, we wouldn’t actually care about it. Hardly anyone would actually choose to have their life’s purpose revolve around buying things, but so many people do exactly that every day, without stopping to question it.

We don’t have to go as far as erasing every other person on Earth. If we just cared a little less about what other people think, we’d care a little more about what we want, and what really matters to us.

On how to get the most out of life with a dose of reality

Lately it has become fashionable in the media to bash on millennials (people in their late 20s-early 30s today). To be fair, we are an easy target, at least most of us who were raised in developed countries.

We grew up being told that we’re unique and exceptional, that we can ‘make an impact’, or if we’re really special, ‘make a dent in the universe’.  We think there is such thing as ‘fair’ and ‘not fair’, as if there is some divine points system that means good things always happen to good people and bad things should happen to bad people. We think if we do our best and work hard we deserve the perfect life promised to us by our parents, the media, or Instagram.

This hasn’t translated well into real adult life. With our generation going into our 30s and 40s, we’ve had to learn some hard truths. Ambitions we had as children, of becoming  CEOs, celebrities, millionaires by the time we’re 30, of changing the world… we’re realising were just fantasies and it’s not going to happen for 99% of us. No, we’re not that 1%, and we’re not so special after all.

This is the reality check many of us need. We might try to blame our failures on our parents, teachers, managers, the government, the economy… but putting the blame on something external is just a way of shifting responsibility away from ourselves because we don’t want to admit that there are more things that are up to us than aren’t.

It’s up to us, individually, to decide if we’re going to lead happy fulfilling lives. We choose whether or not we are happy. Sure, there are things we can’t control, but in life you don’t get what you deserve, there’s really no such thing.

The universe doesn’t owe us anything. Instead, we get what we work for, what we negotiate for, and what we fight for. Most importantly, we get what we take responsibility for, including our own happiness.

And if we want to be happy we have to learn to be content with ‘normal’. This means being OK with a normal job on a normal salary, relationships with normal people, normal every day lives for most of us without vast fame and fortune. We have to accept that we’re only human, and life is just what you make of it.

This is not the same as settling for mediocrity. It doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to make changes for the better, or fight for the things that matter. But we need to learn that accepting what is good enough is OK, we don’t always have to strive for more and more. Once we let go of other people’s expectations and stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, we realise we don’t have to chase after something that is never going to be enough. We can stop the endless pursuit that doesn’t really take us anywhere.

A truly remarkable life is one that extracts the best out of it. This isn’t done by being rich and famous and successful in the sense that our generation thinks it means, but quietly and contentedly. Those who are the most successful at the game of life aren’t the ones who have collected the most money and possessions and are loudest about it, but are the ones who patiently found the most joy in the ordinary.