Teachings from Steve Pavlina and Jesus, and what it means to be lucky

Teachings from Steve Pavlina and Jesus, and what it means to be lucky

Its been awhile since I last posted about something cool I found on the internet.  (Which is unfortunate, since that’s really why I started this blog.)

This morning I found myself reading Noah Kagan’s blog (which I have just recently found and subscribed to), which then led me back to a popular favorite: Steve Pavlina’s blog.  I don’t even know how many tabs I have open right now.

I just finished an article by Pavlina aptly called The Parable of Talents.  For those who are unfamiliar, The Parable of Talents is a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25  of the Bible (Matthew 25:14-30.)

Its about a master who gives his servants different sums of money (aka talents).  One gets 5, one gets 2, and one gets 1.  The one who gets 5 goes off, invests it, and returns with 5 more, totaling 10.  The one with 2 does the same, doubling his to 4.  But the one who had only 1 chooses instead to keep what he has and bury it, rendering it ultimately useless.  The master is very pleased with his first two servants and shares his joy with them.  But he is disappointed in the third servant and casts him away.

Pavlina gives a commentary on this story in the broader context of personal development.  The first thing that struck me about his article is how he notes that each servant was given a different starting position, and how this parallels our own lives.  Some of us are blessed with more talents than others (whether we’re talking here about money or the more colloquial meaning of talent).  But its what we do with what we’re given that matters.

“Jesus acknowledges the unfairness of life, but he also suggests that our starting conditions are irrelevant.  One person earns five talents, another earns only two, but both are congratulated equally.”

This concept is something that I’ve really been noticing lately, and trying to remember.  Having the understanding and acceptance that everyone has their own story, their own journey – complete with a unique starting point – really helps me keep things in a realistic and appropriate perspective.

Its so easy to look at someone who is more successful, more fit, or more giving, and feel down about oneself.  We see where they are right now, and we compare it to where we are right now.  But we don’t consider that we may be at our starting point while they are nearer completion; or perhaps we have spent equal time travelling, yet our starting point was farther back than theirs.

And really, its those times when we overcome a difficult starting point, and achieve something great, that is noteworthy.  Even if our achievement is only that we’ve come as far as we are now, its still quite impressive when you consider the obstacles we’ve overcome.  Now compare that to that “lucky” person who had everything at the start!

In a few areas of my life, I feel that I have been blessed with a good starting point.  I haven’t had to work as hard as some other people to achieve the same things.  In these areas, I’ve always considered myself “lucky”.  But take note of this point Steve Pavlina makes:

“If you happen to be one of those who receives five talents, don’t pat yourself on the back that you’re already above average.  If you have abundant talents, you should expect even more from yourself.”

For too long now, I have overvalued my starting point.  For example, my family has never really struggled with money, so that’s a reality I’ve been “lucky” enough to avoid.  As such, it was always assumed that I would go to school, make something of myself, and be successful in return.  I didn’t have to work as hard to prove myself, because I was born into a situation where it was already proven.  (In a sense.)

Similarly, I was able to pass my classes without too much effort.  So, naturally, I used that to my advantage, rarely studied or did my homework, and somehow ended up with a high school diploma.

Okay, so now that we know my starting point, let’s take a look at where I am now:

…Kind of nowhere.

I have such a high standard for myself, that I don’t want to do a lot of things most people do.  Like graduate college, get a “real job”, etc.  I’ve been fortunate enough to live with my parents and not have to pay rent (which is especially convenient considering the no degree and no job bit).  Because of this, I still consider myself to be “lucky”.  Hey, I don’t have to work or go to school, and I can live for free!

So why have I put “lucky” in quotes every time I’ve mentioned it?  Because taking a look at me, blessed with the great starting point, coasting through school and life up until this point, and now looking at what I’ve made of myself – and then comparing that to someone who may have had a much worse starting point, who may have had to put in many long hours studying and working and doing things that weren’t enjoyable, and now they have a successful career and a fulfilling life – which one is really “lucky”?

“What matters isn’t what we’re given — it’s what we do with it that matters.”

Reading Steve Pavlina’s post is yet another reminder to prioritize where I am vs. where I should be; to realistically evaluate myself not on where I’ve started but on where I’ve gotten myself and continue to get myself.

So – why have I let myself coast and sit around, and not take advantage of the great start life gave me?

Pavlina brings up another point from the Parable: the reason the third servant chose to hide his money instead of use it, was out of fear.  He only had 1, and didn’t want to risk losing it.  But in so doing, the money really didn’t serve him at all, as if he had none to begin with.  So basically, he was living as though his worst fear was his reality.

That’s pretty much my life to a T.  I worked hard at a minimum wage coffee house job for a year, saving up money so that I could go travel or move somewhere exciting, or do something with my life.  But, I ended up not going, and now those savings have been sitting in the bank, useless, dwindling away slowly over the last 6 months.  I’m not using them for the fun they were meant to buy.  So I might as well not even have them.

But the worst part is, having that money gives me another [false sense of a] good starting point.  I think, “hey, I have these savings – I could go places [if I wanted]!”  Its really just giving me a false sense of security, and a false sense of accomplishment.  Because in all practical terms, I have nothing.  Money just sitting in the bank, is nothing.

So how does one brush off these unrealistic self-perceptions, these lies we tell ourselves to feel better about ourselves when we haven’t done anything?

I think perhaps the key is in the next point Pavlina draws, when he poses the question, “What would have happened if one of the servants who invested the money realized a loss instead of a gain?” – i.e., if your worst-case scenario comes true and you utterly fail, then what?

Pavlina conjectures that the master would have praised the servant for trying and failing, because any action is better than inaction.  The third servant was reprimanded for inaction.  The first two servants were praised – but for their action, or “faithfulness”, not their results.

“However, given that Jesus doesn’t directly address this condition in the parable, he may also be suggesting that faith itself is the path to success — a common theme in his other teachings.  So perhaps if you use your talents faithfully, you aren’t really going to lose.”

And finally, Pavlina points out that the servants’ ultimate reward isn’t the money itself (as it was their master’s money and investments, not theirs).  What they receive is to share in the happiness.  The happiness of helping their master, of taking action, of doing well.

I hope you’ve taken something away from this post.  What I took away from Pavlina’s was a reminder that action is always better than inaction – and that even failure is a better result than inaction.  And that all the things I consider myself “lucky” to have, are really not giving me any real benefit at all.  Sure, they give me some baseline happiness and temporary life-support; but if anything, they are inhibiting my development.  And its really high time I stop being so dependent on them.

Do you consider yourself to be lucky?  Have you had a good start or a more challenging one?  What action have you taken since?

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The world is more interesting at night

The world is more interesting at night.  That is the conclusion I have come to.

I have been staying up late.  Like until 2 or 3 am.  This isn’t especially uncharacteristic for me – I’ve always stayed up late, slept in late, arrived late for school and appointments.

But in the last two or three days, I have specifically wanted to go to bed earlier (so as to wake up earlier and to just be better in all ways ever.)

And I have still gone to bed at like 2 am each night.

Its now 1:28am.

A few hours ago, at like 10 or 11, I was so bored.  The internet was not entertaining me.  I had already caught up on facebook, twitter, and emails.  What’s left?  Reading articles?  Nah.  Playing games?  Nah.  Stalking people?  Nah.  The internet could not fulfill me.  And of course nothing in the real world was interesting either.

But yet I didn’t want to go to bed.  It was too early to go to bed and going to bed that early would have been horrendously boring and lame and blah blah blah no fun.

Then at maybe around 11:30 or 12 I came across a new blog that had an assortment of fun articles.  And I’ve been reading it ever since.  Plus, while listening to Pandora, “Sexyback” by Justin Timberlake came on.  It is one of my all time favorite songs.  It instantly reminded me of a high school friend who was later my roommate for a year in college.  I will be seeing her in a week.  So I had to write on her facebook wall that I was listening to the song.  This gave me the idea to sort through my entire iTunes music library and pick out the best songs from high school so that when I visit her (and my other high school friends back in California) we can reminisce together.

Its now 1:32am.  The [4.5 hour] playlist is complete.  I just read an article on the aforementioned blog that is pretty much exactly what I am going through in my life and the feelings I have been having lately.  It was as if I wrote the article myself, although it was more insightful than I think I could have been.

Why couldn’t I find these entertaining things to do 5 hours ago?

Twitter Wisdom

I am following some really interesting people on twitter.

Backpackers, digital nomads, businesses owners, celebrities, dogs, and of course my own friends and acquaintances.  Twitter is probably one of my top sources for information now – and yes, some of that “information” is a picture of @MissAmyChilds in a dress or @Bentleythegrey taking a nap.  But a lot of it is not only informative, but also educational and beneficial to my life:

@AlexIkonn posted this article by Tim Ferriss called Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Weight and Increase Productivity At Work

And I learned from it that even if I start exercising regularly (as I have been for the last 3 days) the fact that I still sit for more than 6 hours daily makes me more likely to have heart disease than someone who sits less than 3 hours a day and gets no exercise.  Great.  A little tempted to freak out.

But I also read this article and this article and have since concluded that I shouldn’t be worried.  I move around quite a bit during the day, even though I am usually sitting.  And, I rarely sit for 6 hours in a row without getting up, which seems to be their main area for concern.

So it seems the idea here is two-fold: 1) be aware of how much time you spend sitting, and 2) balance is key.  Even though they say that exercise alone is not the antidote for sitting, the point is to sit and move intermittently, and that will at least help you more than a solid 6 hours of sitting followed by a solid hour at the gym.

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Another thing that caught my eye in that article was these shoes, which I started to check out but haven’t done enough research to form an opinion on them yet.

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My friend Olivia shared this, Is Independence the Key to Happiness?

One line stood out: “Everyone has a unique definition of themselves, so it makes sense that every person needs to follow her own path to a full life.”

Even though I’m still learning and most definitely don’t have everything figured out, I often find myself judging other people’s lives and assuming I know what’s best for them.  Sometimes I act on this and give my two cents, but other times I just silently wish that they’d find a different (ie better) path.

But who am I to judge that?  “Everyone has a unique definition of themselves” – meaning a different definition than the one I have for them.  Who’s definition is more likely to be right?

“So it makes sense that every person needs to follow [their] own path to a full life.”  I know that if I spent my life doing what other people wanted instead of what I wanted, I would not be happy.  (Remind me to tell you sometime about my experience in college.)

Reading that quote has most definitely given me a new perspective and will most definitely make me question the next time I feel high and mighty enough to judge someone else’s life choices.

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And here’s a great quote from @IrishPolyglot:
The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.

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Something not found on twitter:

From the book White Space is Not Your Enemy, I learned that “people read words, not letters” and that typing in all caps makes the words lose their shapes, and thus they aren’t as easily readable.  If you’re typing something in all caps in an attempt to communicate your point more strongly, think again.