When we focus on others, on helping them or simply providing a good example, our own personal fears and troubles will diminish.
A few years ago, in the middle of the financial crisis, the artist and musician Henry Rollins managed to express this deeply human obligation better than millennia of religious doctrine ever have: People are getting a little desperate. People might not show their best elements to you. You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like. There is no better time than now to have a moral and civic backbone. To have a moral and civic true north. This is a tremendous opportunity for you, a young person, to be heroic. Not that you need to martyr yourself. See, when we focus on others, on helping them or simply providing a good example, our own personal fears and troubles will diminish. With fear or heartache no longer our primary concern, we don’t have time for it. Shared purpose gives us strength.
Sometimes when we are personally stuck with some intractable or impossible problem, one of the best ways to create opportunities or new avenues for movement is to think: If I can’t solve this for myself, how can I at least make this better for other people? Take it for granted, for a second, that there is nothing else in it for us, nothing we can do for ourselves. How can we use this situation to benefit others? How can we salvage some good out of this? If not for me, then for my family or the others I’m leading or those who might later find themselves in a similar situation.
What doesn’t help anyone is making this all about you, all the time. Why did this happen to me? What am I going to do about this? You’ll be shocked by how much of the hopelessness lifts when we reach that conclusion. Because now we have something to do.
Stop pretending that what you’re going through is somehow special or unfair. Whatever trouble you’re having—no matter how difficult—is not some unique misfortune picked out especially for you. It just is what it is.
When really, there is a world beyond our own personal experience filled with people who have dealt with worse. We’re not special or unique simply by virtue of being. We’re all, at varying points in our lives, the subject of random and often incomprehensible events. Reminding ourselves of this is another way of being a bit more selfless. You can always remember that a decade earlier, a century earlier, a millennium earlier, someone just like you stood right where you are and felt very similar things, struggling with the very same thoughts. They had no idea that you would exist, but you know that they did. And a century from now, someone will be in your exact same position, once more.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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