Love, Strength, Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao-Tzu

Human beings are wired to crave for love.  And we are also born with the capacity to love, although it might a few lessons in life’s School of Hard Knocks to acquire the mindset and ability to express it.

To love and be loved is often said to be the greatest joy in life. 

We feel loved when are accepted for who we are, cared for, and supported. That gives us strength to learn, grow, and confidently face into the challenges that life throws at us.  Children who grow up in a loving environment typically develop a healthy self-esteem and confidence. 

Conversely, we love another by accepting who they are unconditionally, showing care and concern, and offering support when needed.  Loving another deeply gives us the courage to act boldly in service of our loved ones and making sacrifices for their well-being.  Parents often act selflessly to protect their children, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Ideally, love is two-way, but it need not necessarily be so. We can love our children deeply without expecting them to love us back in the same way. However, mutuality and reciprocity between romantic lovers is vital to sustain a strong relationship or marriage. Through loving each other deeply, we give one another the strength and courage to weather life’s storms of difficulties as well as life’s greatest gift – JOY.

“Love is granting another the space to be the way they are and the way they are not.” ~ Werner Erhard

Simpler, Fewer, Better

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” ~ Socrates

“Less is more” – three simple words of wisdom worth living by.  They underpin Minimalism, a movement which first began in art, and subsequently influenced many domains including product design, home design, and way of living.

More recently, Marie Kondo has taken the simple idea of “What sparks joy?” from decluttering homes to decluttering businesses and life – inspiring many to simplify their lives.

Consider apply the following questions to the various aspects of life, including possessions, relationships, clients, personal goals, pet projects, etc.

  1. Simpler – What is essential? What is non-essential?
  2. Fewer – What to keep? What to discard?
  3. Better – How to improve, make the best use of, or enjoy what is left?

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

Must, Should, and Could

“So much to do, so little time.” Sounds familiar?

Although the number of hours in a day is finite, time actually flows infinitely from one moment to another. Each day, we are bestowed with another gift of 24 hours – a gift that we often take for granted whilst being caught up with the busyness of our daily lives.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”~ Seneca

Seneca reminded us of the importance of not wasting this precious gift. It’s helpful to begin by examining how we live an ordinary day, as how we live each day is how we live our lives. Our days are typically occupied by doing things to take care of our concerns – both major and minor. Make breakfast, finish a proposal, call a client, attend to a crisis at work, consult the dentist, pay utility bills, pick up kids from school, chair a board meeting, meditate, call mum, take a walk with spouse, exercise, etc.

But not all tasks are created equal. Some tasks matter more than others. Some are urgent, and some are not. And not all of them need to be completed on the same day. Distinguishing the importance and urgency of each task is vital, as Eisenhower has discovered. The urgent is often mistaken as important. Consider three categories of activities that will occupy your day.

  1. Must do – important and urgent tasks, that if not completed, will have severe undesirable consequences. Strive to do them all today so that we take care of our major concerns daily.
  2. Should do – important but not urgent tasks, that should be done today if possible or scheduled for another day, before they become urgent. Strive to do as many as possible today.
  3. Could do – unimportant tasks, that even if not completed today, will not have any severe undesirable consequences. Do them if you have time to spare, especially the urgent ones. If they are neither important nor urgent, it’s probably OK to leave them undone.

According to Tim Ferris, “lack of time is actually lack of priorities.” Perhaps the first ‘must do’ is to make time to sort out what we must do, should do, and could do, followed by channeling our attention and energy accordingly.

Results, Reasons, and Actions

In life, we get either the results we want, or reasons for not getting them.

Reasons make us look good. They make us feel better, right, or less guilty. 

I didn’t’ get this or that because … It’s not my fault.

However, no amount of explanation, justification, or excuses will change the fact that we didn’t get the results we want – be it losing weight, having a loving relationship, or winning a new business deal.

To get results, we need to get off the reasons, and get on with taking new actions that will bring forth the desired outcome. 

Only actions will transform reality.

What is, what should be, and what could be

What is, is. What isn’t isn’t. It is what it is. That’s called ‘reality.’  And reality doesn’t always match our expectation of what should be.

Expectations are either met or not met – there’s no in-between.  Whenever there is expectation, there is a possibility of either a pleasant surprise or disappointment. But we can’t simply get rid of expectations. No expectation, no disappointment. And no surprises too. 

What if we expect life to turn out exactly the way it turns out? In other words, to accept that life is the way it is now.  But acceptance doesn’t mean resignation.  It simply lifts us out of the futility of dwelling on disappointment over the way life did not turn out as it should have turned out, and liberates us to take new actions toward realising the possibilities of what could be.

Accept what is. Let go of what should be. Strive for what could be.

Past, Present, and Future

Time is not a thing, thus nothing which is, and yet it remains constant in its passing away without being something temporal like the beings in time.” ~ Martin Heidegger

Time is not a thing we can grasp or manage. It cannot be stopped or stored. We can only live in it – moment by moment. 

The past has already happened and is unchangeable. It remains in our memories and recollections. The future has yet to happen and hence, remains uncertain. The present is all we can experience – right here, right now. 

It is common to think that our present is shaped by our past, and similarly, our future will be shaped by our present.  However, consider these propositions by Werner Erhard, founder of est:-

  1. The past has nothing to do with who you are in the present.
  2. Who you are in the present is given by the future into which you are living.
  3. If it is true that the future into which you are living gives you being and action in the present, and if you put the past into the future, it will appear as though who you are in the present is given by the past.

Erhard is a friend of Richard Feynman, whose quote was the only one that remained on Feynman’s blackboard when he died. The quote was: “There are certain things you can only know by creating them for yourself.”  He is inviting us to try on the idea that our being and action in the present is given by the future into which we are living rather than coming from the past.  So, if we stop projecting our past into the future, the future is simply a field of possibilities, unconstrained by our past. 

When we create a new future for ourselves, our current circumstances don’t change.  They are still the same as before, but we are now put onto a different trajectory that is unfolding toward the future into which we are living. 

Q: What is the future you are living into?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Follow Your Curiosity – 50 Days of Miloism

This weekend, a Facebook memory from a year ago, photos of Milo’s first day home compared to today, and a digital collage by Beeple (sold for USD 69.3 million) seemed to have conspired to nudge me to complete another almost-abandoned project – a digital collage for #50DaysOfMiloism.

As part of turning 50 last year, I embarked on a couple of 50-days experiments. The first, which commenced on January 19, 2020, was #50DaysOfSimpleLiving– inspired by The Art of Simple Living by Zen monk Shunmyo Masuno. Each day, I shared a couplet from Shunmyo’s ‘100 daily practices’ on Insta and FB. As the minor outbreak in Wuhan grew into a global COVID-19 pandemic that will impact our lives for years to come, these Zen practices turned out to be rather helpful in adapting to the new way of living.

Life took a new turn when Sean’s friend gave him a lovely kitten. On August 9, 2020, Singapore’s 55th National Day, Milo joined the Toh family. Cute, curious, and playful, he stole my heart and became my muse that inspired various creative pursuits. One of which led to the second experiment – and #50DaysOfMiloism took flight on September 28, 2020. For 50 days, I shared on @The_Miloist, a piece of daily ‘random wisdom’ from one of my favourite books, accompanied by a digital image of Milo.

A digital collage of 50 images featured on @The_Miloist from 28 September to 16 November, 2020.

The #50DaysOfMiloism is a confluence of multiple influences and sources of inspiration.

  • A desire to embrace the qualities of curiosity and playfulness of my Spirit Animal – inspired by Milo
  • A playful experiment with following my curiosity whilst satisfying a yearning to rediscover the wealth of wisdom that is sitting on the bookshelves (and an excuse to read my favourite books again)
  • A nudge from Carla Henry, a dear colleague and friend, to create an Instagram account for Milo – evidently a muse for my iPhonePhotography
  • An outlet for channeling my passion for learning, creating, taking photographs, and sharing of wisdom
  • A worthy idea to start another #50Day series after completing the #50DaysOfSimpleLiving

So, what have I learnt from these 50 days?

  1. Curiosity has its own rhythm. It is not to be dictated or directed intentionally. Best to relax, keep an open mind and open heart, let life spark your curiosity, and then follow its trail. You never know what you’ll find. The joy of exploring the unknown is in the discovery.
  2. There is abundant wisdom around us, if only we open our hearts to receive them. On some days, when faced with a difficult situation, I got just the ‘right message’ from the book or passage that I happen to read. And in various occasions, friends who followed the posts would find them extremely timely. There is magic in serendipity.
  3. Declaring a commitment publicly is helpful for building habits. In honoring my promise to do a daily post for 50 days, no matter how busy I was at work, I diligently read, took and edited photos, and spend time with Milo everyday.
  4. Discovery is only the beginning. It’s what you do with the wisdom that matters most. I still practice most of the ’10 Rules of Ikigai’ from Day #24 – especially smile, reconnecting with nature, and live in the moment.
  5. With curiosity, no problem is unsurmountable. When in doubt or in need for help, simply ask. In following my curiosity, I rediscovered the magic of “Ask, and you shall receive.”

Curious about #50DaysOfMiloism?

Simply download this compilation and enjoy your journey of following your curiosity!