There are lots of things I don’t know, but I do know how to live. Someone once suggested that I learned it from this exchange between master and student from the classic TV series, Kung Fu:
Po: He who knows how to live need not fear death. He can walk without fear of rhino or tiger. He will not be wounded in battle.
Caine: How can this be?
Po: In him the rhino can find no place to thrust his horn. The tiger, no place to use his claws. And weapons, no place to pierce.
Caine: Why is this so?
Po: Because a man who knows how to live, has no place for death to enter.
I’m sure this also applies to women. And I’m sure it is true, although I have not tested it in any neighborhoods where rhinos or tigers roam. Nor did I ever watch the show, although it doubtless would have reinforced my surmising that the most fearsome creatures in any world walk upright on two legs.
So what do I know about life? And what, you may ask, qualifies me to decide that what I know is truth? Answer: I have lived for longer than most and have tried not to waste much of that time chasing after shiny bright toys. That may not be enough of a resume for you to hire me as an expert on living, but then again, I am not going to charge you. (I will, however, challenge you to tell me I’m wrong by proving the opposite of these five assertions.)
My Five Truths
- Fear chokes off life. The fact is, there are tiger- and rhino-equivalents in everyone’s life. Do you let them stalk your thoughts, even when they’re securely locked up or don’t even know you exist? Or do you simply acknowledge that they can be dangerous and do what’s necessary to avoid them and/or protect yourself?
- Keep your focus sharp by resisting distraction. Whatever jungle you may inhabit, there will always be mysterious byways and magnificent birds to catch your eye. Never let them divert your attention from the path you are on. Sure, everyone occasionally wavers or re-evaluates their journey, but if and when you go off your planned course, do it with complete mindfulness of the potential consequences.
- First give yourself what you need, so that you can give more to others. It is so easy to forget that giving can be a strenuous exercise. You need to get yourself in shape for it, just like anything else. Start small, with frequent repetitions, and soon you’ll be giving large, to yourself and others.
- Capital is important, but it can’t replace relationships. There was a time there was something called social capital, used to describe the source of influence that comes from trust. You can be born with a great brand name, or look like the typical trustworthy person, in the same way you can have financial capital or easy access to it. But neither of these can be a lasting substitute for the long-term value of a deep supportive relationship. That value is impossible to quantify, because it is about what happens between people, not what’s inside of them.
- The most powerful forces are invisible. There are many names for these, and no one can tell when they are in action. You might not realize the part they play in your own success, but if you take personal credit for what they do, you are challenging them to abandon you. Better to simply put your heart into your work and drive yourself closer to your dreams. When surprising or amazing things happen along the way, be grateful.