PhD Chronicles: Part V

One of my best authors is Robert Greene. His debut book, The 48 Laws of Power, published in 1998, was described as ‘the psychopaths Bible’. Although these laws seem somewhat evil and narcissistic tools to manipulate others, however, if you actually take a critical look at these laws you would notice that some of them are things we do, consciously and unconsciously, on a daily basis.

Here are some of the laws in the Book:

Law 3: Conceal your intentions

Law 4: Always say less than necessary

Law 5: So much depends on your reputation; guard it with your life

Law 9: Win through actions; never through arguments

Law 10: Avoid the unhappy or unlucky

Law 12: Use selective honesty or generosity to disarm your ‘victim’

Law 16: Use absence to increase strength and honour

Law 17: Cultivate an air of unpredictability

Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion

Law 36: Disdain anything you can’t have; ignoring them is the best revenge

Law 40: Despise the free lunch

Take a look at the aforementioned laws. Have you ever practised or still practise any of the laws on the list? If I am to guess, I would say that the most likely answer is YES. This is because power is a natural phenomenon. Every human yearns for power and influence knowingly and unknowingly. Whether one accepts it or not is an entirely different story altogether.

Many believe that power corrupts but I beg to differ. I sincerely believe that power is liberating and allows you to freely express your authentic self that you may have been hiding for any reason. Unfortunately, power does not always result in positive circumstance. For so many people, their authentic self is tainted with an insatiable thirst to control, manipulate, abuse or get back at others.

Sirach 30:10-11 Has anyone ever known that he could get away with cheating someone, and not taken advantage of it. If so, he deserves his wealth, and everyone will praise him for his generosity.

This is why there’s a general misconception that power holders are inconsiderate dimwits who do not care about others but that isn’t true. And I say it all depends on the individual that yields the power.

I have previously written about my struggles with the impostor syndrome during the early stages of this journey. At the time, I felt powerless and as a consequence, most of the people I resorted to for help looked down on me. And I sincerely understand. Power and powerlessness affect our perception of others.

Power is a great mechanism in changing of behaviour. Power comes along with confidence, assertiveness, courage, quick decision making and increased hormonal levels (high testosterone level and low cortisol (stress hormone) level). However, being powerless makes you second-guess yourself, seek external validation from others and instils fear that stops you from going after what you really want and need.

The fact that power can bring about a change in one’s behaviour is the reason why I encourage everyone to seek power via knowledge for knowledge is power. You don’t have to be a bookworm but you MUST love knowledge in order to acquire it. And the simplest way to do this is by mere observation of things and people around you, and experimentation as Alex Ferguson said in his book, Leading, “there’s a reason God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth.”

Ecclesiastes 9:16 Wisdom is better than strength. But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

Ignorance and curiosity drive scientific research but the at the end of the day, we acquire knowledge that can transform the world. However, how this knowledge is framed to the public is important. If it is presented in a negative, aggressive or condescending manner, knowledge loses its power. As a result, scientists have to allow the public to mirror scientific information against their personal beliefs by showing them how science belongs to them and how they belong to science. That way knowledge becomes powerful and can be worth its weight in gold.

Is everybody an addict?

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I was listening to the song John Doe, performed by B.O.B and Priscilla, last night and some lines from the song go like this.

Errybody’s addicted to something
Errybody gotta grip onto something
Even if it’s just to feel the response of appeal
Maybe once, maybe twice
Maybe hundreds of times, hundreds of times

This got my mind racing; is everyone really addicted to something? Is addiction part of our make up as humans? Does it help one to fight his/her inner demons?

To answer these questions; yes I think everybody is addicted to something or capable of being an addict and addiction is a part of human condition. However I don’t know if it helps us crush our inner demons.

Whether it is drugs, sex, violence, alcohol, porn, nicotine, food, gambling, coffee, shopping or something seemingly innocuous like gossiping, exercise, power, religion, love, attention, TV series, music, looks or obsession to work, every individual has addictive tendencies. So, it is left for one to acknowledge that particular bane of his/her life.

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Our world encourages and demands addiction. Just like Oliver Twist, we yearn for more – more money, more power, more knowledge, more success, more status, more gadgets, more cars, more happiness.

Boredom is directly proportional to addiction. Most people can’t handle boredom. To be fair, nobody likes being bored. Once we are bored, we look for things to keep ourselves busy until we cross that fine line between loving or using something a lot, and being addicted. You know what they a say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

In the end, it is safe to presume that everybody is addicted to something and everybody is an addict but we can channel our addictive tendencies into something positive.

What are you addicted to?

It Is A Selfish World

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One has lost count of the number of people he’s been “friends” with. In hindsight, these people became friends with me for different reasons – most of which (if not all) were selfish.

I used to be annoyed when people portray their selfishness but some events made me realise that I am as selfish as the people I loathed. This epiphany led me to another Zinga theory, that no matter how awesome we may think we are, there is a (selfish) reason why that man/woman is around us. And everything we do has a selfish connotation and engineered in such a way to make us happy.

Selfishness is often regarded as something evil; an image of one who cares for no one but himself or herself and pursues nothing but his or her own happiness. Being selfish has never been given to anyone as a compliment.

This is a common misconception about selfishness; being selfish has a variety of meanings. Melissa Deuter, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center once said “Selfish is an ugly word but it can mean two different things. One connotation is that you’re unkind and inconsiderate of others. The other is that you take responsibility for getting your personal, emotional and physical needs met, and that’s an important part of becoming an adult.”

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Everybody is selfish in diverse ways and to varying levels/degrees – after all, we are self-centred in our daily pursuit of happiness. Epicurus wrote, “We must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.”

Almost every action we take is to satisfy our needs and happiness. Everyone is dire pursuit of what he/she is greedy about – love, knowledge, sex, acceptance, money, success or any other activity/product that gives a sense of gratification.

Don’t misconstrue the point here, you can still be the best person you can possibly be and be selfish. Altruism – the act of being selfless for the wellbeing of others – can also be linked to selfishness. There are a lot of kind and generous people in this world but most of the effort people put in is for selfish purposes.

For instance, many believe people will like them more if they do everything others want. They yearn for love and acceptance to feel good about themselves (happiness) but instead, they become pawns controlled by others. Nathaniel Branden wrote in his article “Isn’t everyone selfish?” “No one ever really sacrifices himself. Since every purposeful action is motivated by some value or goal that the actor desires, one always acts selfishly, whether one knows it or not.”

Biologically, human evolution depicts that natural selection abhors selflessness and favours selfish behaviour. Human beings have a deep survival instinct – to fight for food and shelter or against adverse circumstances. These instincts may be the reason behind our selfishness.

People seldom praise others without selfish motives. They may sing your praises today because you are in power but will waste no time to disregard your achievements and magnify your flaws as soon as you lose that power.

It is all about survival. Happiness is a survival mechanism, a reward for our actions. As far as mankind chases happiness, it will always be a selfish world.

What do you think?

Information is everything

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Last weekend, I sat down to tinker with my thoughts; to evaluate how the past month went. After a while, I discovered that every important decision I made was dependent on the information I had at the time.

Information is the lifeblood of every decision. It is at the root of everything. We depend on information to make decisions, solve problems and resolve uncertainty.

In this Information Age, information is ubiquitous and more accessible to virtually everyone. We are overwhelmed by the abundance of information at our disposal.

Everything that informs our world – music, writing, movies, news etc – can be described as information. According to Business Dictionary, Information is described as data that is accurate and timely, specific and organized for a purpose, presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.

For instance, if you don’t read the instructions on your exam paper (information given by the examiners) before proceeding to answer the questions, you are likely to misunderstand the questions.

Information is an integral part of our lives; it can affect a behaviour or an outcome. Those with accurate, reliable and timely information have an advantage over others.

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Scientifically, information defines who we are. Every individual possesses a genetic code, which is the biochemical basis of heredity. This genetic code serves as biochemical instructions that translates the genetic information in one’s DNA or messenger RNA sequences into amino acids for synthesis of protein. Pardon my use of medical jargon.

Information can be facts, opinions and/or assertions. Our relationships, including marriage, is based on facts and/or opinions. It is hard to know everything about an individual so one tries to make a smart judgement based on facts and opinions and not a risky one based only on opinions.

Information provides knowledge. Knowledge is a prequisite for success and power. I am yet to see a rich man that doesn’t have information/knowledge. By sharing his/her knowledge, he acquires more wealth and power.

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However, information can be disastrous when there is an overload. Differentiating between good and bad information requires skill, patience and practice.

In this school of life, everybody is a researcher and every researcher is in dire need of information for his/her research to be successful. When you find this information, evaluate if it is good information. Successful research is based on having good information and then using it to make the right decisions.

Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make good use of it.

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Overthinking kills

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As humans, we think all the time, consciously and subconsciously. Thinking is a wonderful tool for education. It helps us generate information that can motivate and inspire us.

However, sometimes we get stuck worrying about something that happened or something that will happen. Some are constantly worrying about posting the perfect picture on social media, analyzing people’s statuses, spend much time thinking about to tweet or wondering why someone just unfollowed them on Instagram.

We all over-think in one way or another. Whether it is general worries about the future, self-worth, decisions or regrets, we are often overwhelmed by our own thoughts as we try to analyse our steps from every angle imaginable.

As we over-think, we become stuck in our heads; we fear being wrong. We become rooted in fear, doubt and uncertainty. The human mind abhors uncertainty.

Uncertainty implies danger so we try to take cover and protect ourselves. Over-thinking often comes with paranoia. Everything seems more dangerous than it actually is.

For instance, you have a crush on someone but you are afraid to make the move because you are uncertain of what his/her response would be. So you over-think approaching the person and making your feelings known and in the end, convince yourself it is best not to say anything.

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Also, when one is diagnosed with certain ailments or has certain symptoms, s/he over-thinks and believes the wall is closing in on him/her. One fears the uncertainty surrounding his/her future because of the sickness. As a result, over-thinking kills faster than the sickness itself.

When we over-think, we focus on what if instead of what is and this can have  a devastating effect on our health. We become engrossed in our own thoughts and emotions that we zone out and become numb to people, places, and things around us. We lose our identity; we forget who we are.

Knowledge is a wonderful tool but too much of it can make one over-think and paranoid. When faced with difficult decisions, we try to acquire information from our environment, friends and family. We generate many possible solutions to a particular problem that we succumb to over-thinking.

Over-thinking gets you nowhere. It can kill your happiness. If you are over-thinking an experience, limiting the number of people you talk with can help you think soundly. The best thing you can do if/when you over-think is take action and take a step forward.

Everybody is going to over-think and over-analyse once in a while but it is best to minimise these thoughts and make them productive.

Are you an over-thinker?

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your view on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.