3 Qualities You Should Master
I refuse to live my life full of regrets. The current state of the world has further exasperated that feeling for me. It resonates in my head at the start of each day. I don’t want to call it a threat necessarily, but more so a constant reminder of what I don’t want to do. Not being able to say that I gave something a shot doesn’t make sense. I try my best to live a life without regrets.
Momento Mori; Remember that you will die.
This is easier said than done, but I have made big strides in the past couple of years. I also think it has to do with a few things I learned along the way from different experiences. Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life still hold today and are forever ingrained in my psyche.
Lesson #1: Be humble
To lead the people, walk behind them. — Lao Tzu
Humility is one of the greatest gifts but the hardest skills to come by. In my honest opinion, it takes a lot of discipline to be humble. As a society, we need more humility; however (at least in the Western Hemisphere), we share an individualistic culture.¹ In the US, at least, we thrive on attention-grabbing posts and status symbols to propel us forward. We flaunt at any chance that we get.²
An excerpt from Marengo et al.’s journal paper, Examining the links between active Facebook use, received likes, self-esteem and happiness: A study using objective social media data, states:
Overall, we believe our findings on Likes support the hypothesis that receiving Likes might trigger reinforcement learning to return to Facebook. According to our data, receiving Likes might increase self-esteem, and consequently produce a state of happiness.
Similarly, Sherman et al.³ demonstrated the following:
Getting Likes activated brain regions related to reward processing fostering this aforementioned reinforcement learning.
Izuma⁴; and Meshi et al.⁵ share more insights on how social media affects the human psyche through the field of Neuroscience.
Humans are inherently selfish and seek gratification. Kevin Simler’s The Elephant in the Brain reminds us that humans are indeed selfish and argues we each have individual motives beneath our words:
The point is, people don’t typically think or talk in terms of maximizing social status — or, in the case of medicine, showing conspicuous care. And yet we all instinctively act this way. In fact, we’re able to act quite skillfully and strategically, pursuing our self-interest without explicitly acknowledging it, even to ourselves.
Being humble is not a trait; it is a conscious choice I strive to make every day.
Adding more fuel to the fire:
“Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy beings.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Reminding myself that I don’t need external gratification makes sense because it doesn’t provide me with any fuel anymore. In fact, it's a waste of time because people are more focused on themselves than what you do. However, similar to learning a new skill, this took a lot of time.
Doing something from within becomes more natural when you don’t rely on the dopamine hit from telling someone you did something good. It becomes second nature. This takes time, and I am still learning how to do this, but it’ll continue to build with practice.
Lesson #2: Stress over what you can control
John Milton in Paradise Lost wrote:
“The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” It ultimately comes down to the story you tell yourself every time and every day. Every time when you face a set back and every day when you get up. That mental reminder you provide to yourself is what determines the success or failure of the environment you create.
Take life with a grain of salt. Learn to play the game of life, and things will go by a bit smoother is what I always try to remind myself. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad days.
Which are unavoidable.
What is avoidable is the negative thoughts that come from setbacks. The mind is a powerful place, and you determine how you think and react.
“…we are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices”. — Jim Collins
Choosing to be angry when you fail an exam or get rejected from a job opportunity is valid; however, this behavior can lead to a vicious cycle of self-destructive thoughts. Instead, choose to learn from it. Tal Ben-Shahar argues that we should use this as fuel to the flame, second fire reference, if you’re counting. Our setbacks can make or break us. They can send us forward or completely rip the ground from underneath us.
We can only learn to deal with failure by actually experiencing failure, by living through it. The earlier we face difficulties and drawbacks, the better prepared we are to deal with the inevitable obstacles along our path.” — Tal Ben-Shahan, The Pursuit of Perfect
Figuring out how to react in any situation takes skill. What takes incredible skill is choosing to fight back other feelings of hate, resentment, etc., towards something or someone.
It’s not the weight of the world that determines what we can accomplish. It is our fulcrum and lever — Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
Recently I went out with a group of friends on a hike of Mt. Tammany in mid-November.
As we were heading home, I felt a strange vibration coming from my side of the car. Immediately I said, “Guys, it’s a flat tire.” But my friends reassured me, saying that it was the road. Not even a mile passed, and the vibration kept going, regardless of what lane I was in.
I took the next exit and stopped at a gas station. I got out of the car, checked the tire, and found it was shallow, 12 PSI.
I filled the tire up to 30 PSI even though the recommended rating was 35 PSI and waited. Not even a split second passed, and you could hear the hissing from the tire, signifying an air leakage somewhere.
That somewhere was nowhere to be found.
We had no idea where the leak was coming from. So, instead of wasting any more time, I got my tools and started to jack the car up to replace the tire with the spare. This would have gone smoothly if I had the socket wrench with me, which I did not, of course.
At this point, it was around 4–5 PM with the sun going down. I needed to make a move fast. We were about an hour and a half away from home.
In situations like these, acting in frustration doesn’t help the situation. Especially when you’re stuck in the road, without the proper tool to get you by, it’s good to take a step back and breathe. That’s exactly what happened, and exactly what I did.
I had left my socket wrench at home.
Without imploding, I took a big breath in and out and got to work.
My buddy and I searched around the gas station for the socket wrench until we came across a truck repair shop by the station's backside. Luckily, the mechanic was kind enough to let us borrow it.
I quickly replaced the tire, got in the car with my friends, and made it back home fine.
The lesson here is to not worry about what you didn’t do. If I had taken any longer worrying about how I would get home or had been pissed off from the situation, I might have missed out on my chance of finding the mechanic. Worry about what you can control. Who knows how I got the flat. Take action into your own hands and keep moving on.
We are given the cards we’re dealt with. You might as well play them.
Lesson #3: Kill them with kindness
This last lesson is self-explanatory but also difficult to do. To me, being kind isn’t enough in the sense that you are polite and altruistic. The saying “Kill them with kindness” implies that regardless of what’s in your way or what someone has done to you, you’re going to persevere on what you set out to do and go forward.
As terrible as it sounds, don’t let someone get to you. Show them that whatever they do to you, it doesn’t bother you. That way, they either leave or dig deep and look like an idiot for trying to knock you off. Smile through and remember that life’s a game. Easier said than done, but you get the point.
According to Curry et al.⁶:
“Performing acts of kindness improves the well-being of the actor. Together, these results suggest that policy-makers and practitioners are correct to see kindness interventions as effective ways of improving well-being. And they support the general claim that, as social animals, humans possess a range of psychological mechanisms that motivate them to help others, and that they derive satisfaction from doing so.”
I like to keep in mind during confrontational situations that I should act as a mountain. Quite, peaceful and insurmountable.
I don’t care if that’s cheesy.
The moment that you show an ounce of anger, the other person has already won.
Just be kind. That’s all we need. If we each showed each other a bit more kindness, the world would be a better place, as they say.
We clearly need it right now more than ever.
 Rothwell, J. (2010). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 65–84.
 Marengo, Davide, et al. “Examining the Links between Active Facebook Use, Received Likes, Self-Esteem, and Happiness: A Study using Objective Social Media Data.” Telematics and Informatics (2020): 101523.
 Sherman, Lauren E., et al. “The power of the like in adolescence: effects of peer influence on neural and behavioral responses to social media.” Psychological science 27.7 (2016): 1027–1035.
 Izuma, Keise. “The social neuroscience of reputation.” Neuroscience research 72.4 (2012): 283–288.
 Meshi, Dar, Carmen Morawetz, and Hauke R. Heekeren. “Nucleus accumbens response to gains in reputation for the self relative to gains for others predicts social media use.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 7 (2013): 439.
 Curry, Oliver Scott, et al. “Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 76 (2018): 320–329.