I wasn’t sure where an article like this belonged. Essentially, I wanted to document some of my philosophies (which is just a fancy way of saying that if I face a situation, these are the guiding principles that help me make decisions) that I think have helped me experience a lot more positivity within and from others wherever I’ve been (but mostly concerning places away from home). These are, of course, very personal and subjective. As with everything, I expect these to evolve over time and I myself might disagree with some of them at a later point in time. But then, reading my old thoughts and values, and documenting the new ones is exactly the point of this blog anyway.
Writing them down in no particular order.
On an imaginary (and intuited) bell curve that covers all of humankind (and dogs), from the ones who wouldn’t smile no matter what you do, to the ones who’d smile without any reason, I find that most people fall around the region where they’ll smile if they get a smile, where smile is just a metaphor for acting kindly in some way. That is to say that most people are good at heart, just not very upfront about it. A small act of kindness from our end is enough to tap into that ocean of goodness that just lies below the hard top surface.
The worst that happens here is that they don’t return the smile back, but giving away is usually in itself quite rewarding. Between a win and a jackpot, and I’m good with either.
Assume best of intentions; Try seeing things from a different perspective
Many things make sense only when we see them from another point of view. And thanks to the complexity of the world we live in, that’s not always possible. There are far too many factors that can influence the way a person thinks. Acknowledge that. Try to see if the case in question has a right/wrong solution or is it just a matter of difference in perspective. More often that not, latter is the case. For that reason, give the other person the benefit of doubt. Probably they had a good reason for acting in a certain way or saying what they said.
Don’t judge before understanding
One useful tool that I’ve developed over time is to resist the urge to judge someone or something before I have a complete understanding of the picture. Even if I somehow think I do, just knowing that a simple picture with zigzag lines is enough to confuse my mind, let alone complicated situations with hundreds and hundreds of variables, keeps me away from making very bold statements and trusting my thoughts too much.
In this case, being a software developer helps too. Anyone who has done any software engineering knows that no matter how good they get, they can never make statements like my code doesn’t have any bugs. In fact, the more software one writes, the less likely one is to make a statement like that. The same is true, I feel, for other walks of life.
Don’t be scared of looking stupid, making mistakes
Things will go south from time to time, not work out as per plan and even leave lasting bruises. Ideal outcome is just one of the many possible outcomes. I think these setbacks matter much less than our attitude in dealing with them. Sure, there’s the momentary joy in seeing things work out well, but there’s learning in seeing things not work out well. And learning goes much further than momentary joy (and of course, difficult times make for great stories).
Think of all the people in high school that you were once too scared to look stupid in front of. Think of the number of extracurriculars you didn’t participate in, skills that you didn’t learn, questions you didn’t raise your hand to answer to, just so that you could save yourself the momentary embarrassment in case you mess it up. Think of how many people are still in touch with you, or care about you, or even think about you once in a month. On this Earth-sized stage, the only definition of sanity is the one you set for yourself.
Laugh at yourself
Nothing is more powerful than the power to laugh at yourself. All of us have enough mistakes under our belt to write fat comic books out of it. From accidentally making inappropriate remarks that make me cringe whenever I remember them, to less intense fun mistakes that were quite painful at the time, I’ve done it all. And I’m not going to keep a straight face if you tell me you haven’t.
Don’t take it too seriously
I think we often overestimate how important we are. We’re granted a very limited time slot on this Earth stage, so why spend it under a false illusion of self importance and delusional (sometimes pretentious) seriousness. I think of myself as a macro-nihilist, meaning that while I understand the importance of my everyday, micro activities, I keep my emotional extremes in check by not forgetting that in the long run, none of my epic successes or catastrophic failures really matter much.
Being open to new cultures
You can’t shake hands with a closed fist. Similarly, if you’re too proud of the fact that you were randomly born into a specific geographic location or culture or religion or speak a particular language, you’ll find it very difficult to accept the majority of the human race that just as randomly happened to be born in another location or culture or religion or speak a different language. For me, it is a matter of celebration of similarities and differences, of simulating my life in a new culture and environment. That arouses a genuine interest in knowing things, and most people are willing to talk for hours if you show an interest.
On the other hand, being too proud of accidental things, while does feel good to practice thanks to our evolutionary history of tribalism, doesn’t help much when we meet people and experience cultures which are very different from our own.
When I was little, there was this thing about being unpredictable that I thought made people cool and edgy. But as I grew up, I realized that I’m most comfortable around people who’re predictable. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with them all the time, but just that they’re consistent in their behavior even with things, thoughts and ideas that I don’t agree with.
That’s what I try to adopt for myself. Just trying to be consistent with the way I am, having a more values driven approach towards decisions. It is like being a particularly shaped piece in a box full of puzzle pieces that’s constantly shaking. You can be weird, crazy, stupid, no problem. Eventually, you’ll end up with other pieces you are a perfect fit with.
I hope this article was interesting for you to read. I certainly did have fun writing it. I’m curious to read this piece again in about a year or so and see if there’s anything to add or remove. Thank you for reading. Ciao!