I asked this question on WhatsApp the other day, and I got back a few interesting answers from friends. Most people said something along the lines of they would sacrifice time, or energy to get what they want. To be honest, the first thing that popped into my head when I asked the question was…myself.
…I know right. I’ll explain just now, but let’s talk about desire and sacrifice for a bit.
So, this whole year, I’ve generally been writing on the theme of how to get what you want. The idea has been to share the concepts and lessons I’ve picked up from reading too much and thinking too much, so you don’t have to.
When I think about ‘what you want’, I think about the general drive to be successful and to acquire things. We all want to grow and achieve and climb. It is hardwired into our nature as human beings. We are driven by dissatisfaction and desire. And there are great things to want that are part of the human experience – success, education, money, relationships, family, safety, stability, etc.
But should you always get what you want though?
Desire is a tricky thing. How many times have we desired a thing, eventually gotten it and then realized we wanted the wrong thing. We strive for it, get it and tragically realize that we were worse off. Sometimes not getting what you want is the better outcome. Sometimes for what you avoid in not getting it, sometimes for the person you become or the perspective you gain from not getting it.
It might seem the better strategy, to want things, and to focus on achieving them while being completely open to the universe bringing things of the highest good to you. Things that you may not be able to imagine right now.
What you want is a reflection of what you value, and what you value is a reflection of who you are and what you believe. And you are probably not that great, so you can’t want properly.
But let’s assume your desire is valid and noble. What are you willing to sacrifice what to get what you want? That is the question that tests the strength of your desire and willingness to do whatever it takes.
For every move upwards and onwards, two things usually happen in tandem. We must gain something – a new skill, a new perspective, a new connection, a deepening sense of mastery, whatever. We must also lose something to move up, something that is keeping us anchored to this level – a habit, a perspective, an emotional kneejerk reaction, an unresolved fear, trauma, a grudge, a fear, etc.
The gaining we sometimes find easy enough. It is the sacrifice that gets hard.
To move to the next level, and to get what you want, you have to cut away things that don’t serve you anymore. And that is the crux of sacrifice – giving up something you value, something you are attached to, to gain something of greater value or good.
Sacrifice is the release of attachment. There is the call to sacrifice when there is a need for a change in the status quo. And when this need arises, it is a sure sign that there is something, someone, a situation, a behaviour, a habit, a belief pattern, a mental model that does not serve you anymore. This thing that you are so attached to, this thing that may have brought you here, is also the reason you are stuck. It should not be there anymore. You must identify it and you must sacrifice it.
And it is painful. Sacrifice is violent, and bloody and fatal. Sacrifice means death.
But sacrifice is powerful. It is an explosive release of power, and as an archetypal idea, it is the idea of submitting something of great value to the highest ideal.
But sacrifice must be done with skill. A half-hearted sacrifice is no better than no sacrifice at all. That is why in the bible, Abel sacrificed correctly, and Cain didn’t.
If you will sacrifice, you must come correct. The higher the value of the thing you sacrifice, the more power you release.
And what greater thing to sacrifice than the self.
The self is our biggest source of agency and our biggest stumbling block. It is the self that holds desire and strives towards them. It is also the self that holds on to patterns and habits and behaviours that keep us trapped and stagnant.
And so, to sacrifice something of greatest value we must go within. You go looking for the chaos dragon, for the shadow, the sacrificial lamb. You do deep self-introspection to realise that if you want something, if you are to achieve it and hold it, you must give up something of yourself. You must let go of an attachment.
It could be as innocuous as hitting the snooze button or as life threatening as shooting up drugs. It could be a relationship or interaction that does add some value to you while crippling you in fundamental ways. Many times, it is precisely the thing we don’t want to address.
Brian Tracy in an article about life-long learning makes the following claim.
The weakest key skill sets the height of your results and the height of your income. You can be excellent in a variety of areas, but the one essential area where you are the weakest, determines how far and how fast you move upward and onward.
Your breakthrough, your potential for explosive growth is precisely in the place you have refused to look. It is the place you have allowed yourself to be the weakest. That is the place your sacrifice is. The thing we refuse to address is where the key to what we desire is hidden.
And so there we must go, we must descend into the depths. Sometimes to the very foundation of our thoughts and emotions. Sometimes the thing we must sacrifice is ourselves, the things we have built our identity on, the perception we hold of the world, the perception we hold of ourselves, the self-doubt, the fear, the comfort, the limiting beliefs, the grudge, the hate.
To get better, we must become better, and that means continual perpetual skilful self-sacrifice.
This is my first blog post in…forever. I don’t even know when I stopped writing. I suppose at the time, life just got so intense I was really spending all my time trying to stay above water. But after the fire and the flood, seated on this metaphoric mountain looking out on the landscape…I have gained a new perspective…or maybe these are old ideas, just freshly ingrained. As the new year gets to a running start today, I reflect on the ideas that have been swirling around in my head lately…lessons hard won from the year past.
- No-one has the answers: This was a particularly important mental shift to hit me in 2015. No one has the answers. Everyone is winging it. I used to follow people, look to people for guidance, especially in the area of business. I was looking for the formula to business. But no one has it. Maybe they have it for them, but no one has my answers. There’s a lot to learn by watching other people and by listening to them. At the end of the day though, I must provide my answers, I must propose my strategy and my solutions. It’s up to me, no one else to create what I think is possible. I must take the wheel and steer the ship.
- Saying no: As an extension of the last point – a lot of people are going to come at me with ideas and plans and dreams and requests on my time. I would have to decline though. I cannot afford to invest my time in things that would not add value or bring value. I have to say no to things I don’t really want so I can focus on that which I really do. I must steadily and consistently take action towards the things that are important to me.
- Know what’s real: This idea is the most recent and most pervasive one right now. So much so, It has caused me to lose a lot more interest in media – social and otherwise. I’ve been deeply drawn to the core of things. I like to gaze through the noise so to speak and try to grasp the one core central truth of the situation. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life at this point in time and the future…where to go, what to do next, how to jump to the next level, the long term effects of my past actions and how to course correct some of them. I also look around at all the noise around, the gurus, the advertisers, the media, the society, social media – all the white noise of ideas telling us what we should do and who we should be. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the chaos. To craft an effective strategy, I must have a clear picture of what really matters. I don’t have to impress anyone, because I am okay as I am as a human being, no one is higher than me (regardless of who they are or what they have). But I do have a responsibility to explore my potential and gifts and exhaust that as much as possible. I have a responsibility to contribute to the world in a true authentic way. It’s okay if I don’t have the latest thing yet, even though its all good and great to have it. That’s because the source of true happiness (The thing we are all seeking anyway) is in the smallest, realest of things – genuine friendship, nature, stillness, engagement. As long as you cover those basics and are not hypnotized by the bullshit the world tries to feed you every day, you will have true success and true happiness. Know what’s real with people. Know what issues are really at play when you are dealing with stakeholders. Know who’s really there and who isn’t. Take care of the most important ones, the ones close to you, the ones that matter.
I was listening to an audio version of Robert Greene’s ‘Mastery’ yesterday. He took me on a journey through the lives of various individuals, including Buckminster Fuller. And as he told it, I was drawn to the darker points of the story, the points of adversity. I’ve been going through dark times and I just wanted a peek into the lives of others who have faced similar and conquered them. Everyone goes through some dark stuff, even the greats, especially the greats. I reckon its in those dark times that they rally and tap into greater depths of force lying deep beneath.
So as I made supper, I was there with Bucky at the end of a spectacular company failure. As he stood by the riverside thinking to himself that he has failed everyone, his wife, his family, his friends, his father in law, his investors. Suicide he reasons, is his best bet. At least his family will receive a large insurance payout and can rely on care from his wife’s side of the family. Suddenly, there is the ‘voice’. The realization strikes him…the conviction that steels his resolve and fuels his steady movement forward, taking him to great heights of fame and fortune.
I’m interested in those points. From experience, those are the most interesting points. We are generally seduced and distracted by the actual triumph and win. But in the dark, in the pit, this is where the magic actually happens. This is the shit where the seed is buried, rained on and left to die…and be reborn.
Stay focused, bend but don’t break. Wipe your face, steel your resolve and get back into the ring. Do whatever you need to survive, and use this darkness, this pain to forge something of incredibly value, something indestructible.
I’m okay today…I’m calm, I’m focused, I’m not emotionally distressed, I’m not depressed. But I don’t know how long it would last. I tend to cycle…I’m okay now, but in two weeks or so, I might be depressed, sad and melancholy. It’s just the way it has been.
I remember stretches of melancholy as a teen in high school. I chuck that up to just general angst and adolesence..it was my way of dealing. By my second year of university, I spoke the words ‘I think I am depressed’ for the first time. I didn’t quite understand it, I was very sad for long periods of time. It mostly had to do with school, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t engaged with the course I was studying. Over time this feeling built up and two years later I had left and was never going back.
There was some euphoria, some utter terror and a lot of worry. I was the happiest I had been in years though, and I have been growing happier since. But I still cycle. Some days I’m good. Some days I’m bad. Since I have lived with this for a few years now, there are a couple of things I have learned from being possibly bipolar.
- It will pass. Whenever the dark cloud gathers and everything seems deary and the world feels like a terrible place. I remember…it will pass. Eventually I will be feeling normal again and life will go on.
- Something might be wrong. Often when I get depressed, especially for an extended period of time, it is a clear indication that some part of my life is not right. Perhaps there is a decision I’m putting off, or maybe I’m busy doing something I really should not be doing. In any case, it is a clear sign for me to pay attention and resolve the matter.
- An incredible amount of energy will probably be released when I come out of it. I find sometimes that after the dark cloud passes, I’m suddenly hit with epiphany after epiphany or I have a manic sense of creativity and productivity.
- Use the energy you have. I have learned to work with what I have. If I am dark and agsty, I would channel that energy into making some art, or making something cool. Or gather all that dark energy and focus it into work and being productive.
- Don’t take it too personally. I look at it like the weather. It is not something I have an incredible amount of control over. I wake up and realise am depressed. I don’t take it personally, I don’t feel bad about it. I sit with it, I let it be, I move about my life regardless.
The other week, I had just come off from a 6 week stretch of ups and downs. I had been depressed more than often. I felt myself getting depressed again and I got pissed and said to myself, ‘fuck that, I’m not going to be depressed anymore’. I seem to have been fine since. Its not a cake walk everyday, but I focus on what must get done and push on those. It seems to work.
This is my first blog post in six months. There has been a slow steady decline in the frequency of my writing; it was inevitable it was going to trickle down to a stop. I didn’t mind too much that I wasn’t writing anymore because I honestly felt like I had nothing to say. I didn’t even journal/write to myself as much. Without that ‘inspiration’ I felt moved to just be, live, feeling, and just let things sink into my bones.
There is a time and place for fallow periods.
It’s the New Year, and as most of us scramble yet again with our newly forged resolutions and recommitments, I am right there with you. I have been thinking at length for the past half year about my blog, my work and my interests and how to weave together online in a way that made sense. This is the latest incarnation of…what ever this is.
I started blogging in 2010 after I made the difficult but necessary decision to leave school and focus my energies on the things that I actually enjoyed doing. It was a time of great change and my life went upside down (in an amazing way). At first, I blogged and blasted out my manifestos and rants of what life should be and how the system sucks, and how to break free. Over time my blog became the space where I worked out my catharsis by writing any new epiphany or ideas I was obsessed with at the time.
Fast-forward to now, 2015 and I feel different. I’m not as angry, I’ve had some progress at reprogramming my mind, I’ve worked through some of my issues, I generally interact with the world in a different way, I’ve grown and I almost feel like I know what I am doing. I felt like I had nothing to say because I drew my writing inspiration from a place of angst or a place of lofty emotion. When you pass the stage of astonishment at profound ideas and you are in the trenches of working out ‘what does this mean’, the emotion passes/evolves and what you are left with is ‘the work’. But maybe ‘I have nothing to say’ is just an excuse for being lazy.
Life evolves, My blog has a new home, my old domain name is transforming into something else, I’m writing again, hopefully I find a rhythm, I’ll write about anything – the things I’ve learnt, the things I feel, the things I make and all the wonderful people and things around me.
Every year after my birthday, I try to make a list of things I learned over the past 12 months. This is what I got for June 2013 – June 2014
- It is quite interesting to see who comes to your aid at your point of need. There are friends who would put themselves on the line for you. This kind of friend is the best kind after family.
- The environment you are in – the actual city/suburb, friends, events around you have a very big effect on who you are and how you think.
- It is extremely important to have a space of your own, both physical space and time space. The more space you have with yourself, the easier it is for your true desires and impulses to bubble up, and the easier it is to act on them.
- Be focused on the end result (what you want), be flexible on the path (how you get it)
- Sometimes, the answers to the problems we have are much closer than we think. The trick is recognizing it.
- If you really want to change, the universe makes it a little bit easier (at least in my experience)
- Stretch yourself…and grow
- Always be as true to yourself as you can be, even if you fear people may not like that you or agree with that you, even if you lose friends.
- Be the leader/mentor you wish you had
- Quality over quantity – in possessions, in friends, in partners.
- Sometimes, you have to put down the books and engage with life in real time relying on your instincts.
- When money isn’t an issue, it is easier to think strategically
- Don’t be afraid to feel pain, to feel hurt, to feel betrayed or let down. Pain is a necessary part of life and it won’t kill you.
- Don’t fight the system. Pimp the system.
- My mother REALLY doesn’t like it when I grow an afro.
- If the same advice keeps coming up from different people, give it some consideration.
- Be open, live with an open heart even if it is hurt and bleeding.
- Systems are better than goals
- Face your fears, every time you do, you get a bit stronger.
- The less girls you entertain, the more time and energy you have and the simpler life is…generally
- It is really hard to make a list like this
- Cultivate your quirks, embrace your unique interest and voice. In today’s world, you must own who you are.
- Deciding what to eat everyday is quite the chore. I need a chef to handle that for me.
- It is possible to fall in love, and have another person by the mere virtue of their existence provide a compelling argument as to why you should be a better person.
- Try to plan or at least keep in mind the long haul…a year, 10 years, 100 years, it helps to ensure you keep the main thing, the main thing.
- I am going to die, it could be as soon as tomorrow, or as far as decades from now. But with every passing day, I need to get out all these things inside me.