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.

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Much Ado About Sex

Scrolling through different social media platforms and watching people drop entertaining/funny freestyles to “for the dick/pussy” challenge, proved to me what I already know..our world is so obsessed with sex. And it is a bit out of control to say the least.

Sex is everywhere you go; there’s no escaping it. Everything is linked back to sex..the pictures, twerk videos, innuendos etc. Even when we are angry, one of the most common verbal expressions in the English language, “Fuck you!” subtly suggests sex. This makes me wonder if Oscar Wilde was right after all when he said, “Everything is about sex except sex, sex is about power.”

When I started blogging, one of the few pieces of advice I received was, “Dude, write about sex and relationships, that’s what people want to read about.” And he was right, blogs get more traffic when writers focus on such topics. Often, you hear people say that there’s more to life than sex/fun yet somehow they still join or follow the conversation.

The urge to join the conversation whenever the topic is about sex, love and relationships, is always there. Maybe because it is something we can all relate to. Maybe it is our deep craving to take a breather and relax our minds. Whatever it may be, sexual intimacy is at the core of our psychological needs.

Naturally, sex, love and affection are basic psychological needs (not wants) of every human being because we are biologically wired with hormones. These gonadal hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone), produced by the testes and ovaries, control brain chemistry and connections, and hence affect our emotions, mood and behaviour.

According to a scientist, Dr Daniel Amen, at the University of California, ‘enhancing oestrogen levels through regular sexual activity increases overall brain activity.’ Also, a recent study by German scientists has shown that brief viewing of pornography interferes with people’s working memory – the ability to pay attention and multi-task.

Either way, this alludes to us paying attention to what we feed our minds. The mind is so absorbent that it can soak up information from everything we do, see and hear: pictures, places, people, shows, movies, stories, ideas and opinions. What you feed your mind has a great impact on your brain capacity.

The brain has the capacity to create neural connections to your thoughts and experiences. So the mind can change the structure of your brain and relationships with others by creating patterns of the information it has absorbed. In the same vein, the brain can change the structure of the mind and relationships. And lastly, because we are tremendously influenced by others, relationships with others can change the mind and brain.

Feed your mind with empowering stuff. Cultivate relationships with people you can learn from. Value learning above everything. Hopefully, this will lead you to all the right moves in all the right places.

P.S. if you don’t like jokes about the genitalia, don’t bother watching the #FortheDick/Pussy” challenge videos.

Letter to Myself: Try To Make Peace With It

When people look down on you, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. This doesn’t mean that you should be a doormat – that’s a sign of weakness but what people think of you matters little compared to what you think of yourself. Always remember, how you react when people insult you reveals a lot about you. Nobody can make you inferior without your consent so why give people this power over you? Fight your insecurities, build your self-esteem and develop yourself into an asset.

When you experience failure or rejection from friends, a potential partner or employer, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Don’t throw tantrums. Don’t let others control your emotions. Most times, failure/rejection comes with indelible lessons when critically analysed. These lessons often have the potential to propel you to greater heights in your personal relationships and/or chosen career.

When things aren’t going accordingly for you, many will desert you and it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. A friend once told me “We often think people have forgotten us. The moment you become successful, it will surprise you who has your digits.” so chase success. See this as a way to remove the chaff from the rice.

When friends and loved ones are always out to cheat you because you have a kind heart, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Just remember that every transaction is a true test of one’s integrity so see this as an eye-opener and never do business with them again. Our actions and attitude are a reflection of our innermost values, beliefs and expectations. Once beaten, twice shy.

When people hate you for no good reason, it will definitely hurt. Try and have an introspection to know if you really are the problem instead of getting mad. Anger sometimes means fear so always ask yourself what are you afraid of? If/when you are convinced you aren’t the problem, try to make peace with it. Smile and talk to them when you see them, it will make them uncomfortable thus giving you power over them.

When people gossip and bear false witness against you, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Everyone gossips but make a conscious effort not to pay much attention or gossip about others. Rather let them gossip about you. No one pays attention to those they feel are below him/her. We rather pay attention to those we think are on our level or above us.

When people mock your efforts at learning something new, don’t be discouraged rather make peace with it. Everyone starts off as a novice so your case isn’t different from others. Keep at it and practice everday till you achieve mastery in that area. There’s no skill you can not master, we just lack the zeal, focus and determination to see it through.

In all, try and have a realistic approach to life. Always look at every possible angle before you leap. Weigh both the positives and negatives but don’t be afraid to leap regardless.

P.S. 

Everyone wears their hunger and haunt. We demonstrate our true values in our actions especially when we are under pressure so pay more attention to what people don’t say. Nevertheless, find atleast one good thing to say about others despite your differences with them. Also, always own up to your shit. Abhor the victim mentality. Don’t blame others for your woes because “no one finds themselves in circumstances. We create our own circumstances.” So before you blame others, check thy self. When you make mistakes, be on top of correcting those mistakes then try again and again and again.

Don’t Mock Me, Teach Me

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“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” – Proverbs 12:1

How often have you heard people say, I can’t marry a woman that doesn’t know how to cook? Or I can’t be with someone that doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re (grammatical errors)? I reckon that these have led to the demise of many promising relationships.

First and foremost, I love food. Ah! Food is life. In Nigeria, there is a common saying that “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” so I do believe a woman ought to possess great culinary skills.

However, as I grow older (and wiser I hope), I have come to accept that not every woman produces magic in the kitchen and not everybody is grammar-savvy. Nobody knows it all and we all have flaws; even the shortcomings of the genuises among us may come easily to those with the lowest of IQs.

As a consequence, I have come to realise that everybody has something to teach you and what really matters is being teachable. So the most important question ought to be is she willing to learn how to cook? Is s/he eager to know the difference between your and you’re?

Teachability is not something you can force on anyone; it is a choice. We choose whether to react positively or negatively to other people’s views and ideas. Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong once said, “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t teach them.”

Naturally, we abhor criticism and negative feedback. No one likes to be criticised so we tend to develop strong resistance and reluctance to it.

This problem is often exacerbated if one possesses any of the six things that can make people arrogant: power, fame, intelligence, affluence, talent and beauty. No matter how powerful, famous, intelligent, affluent, talented and/or beautiful we are, if we are unteachable, it will be hard or almost impossible for us to reach our full potential in our endeavours, careers or relationships.

Hence, being teachable is crucial in self-development and self-education; it is the most important skill in life. Teachability is linked to having an unquenchable thirst and deep appreciation for knowledge.

Your immediate contacts, friends and family are always willing to share their information/knowledge if you are willing to learn from them. Every coach/manager from all walks of life loves anybody that is teachable. They are often happy and eager to help anyone who is not conceited to ask questions.

So go ahead and ask questions for everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. And if someone doesn’t know what you know, try correcting/teaching them before mocking them.

The Godfather: Lessons

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I watched the classic movie adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather for the umpteenth time last week. Twenty-five years after the last of the triology was released, the movie is still interesting and captivating. So let’s look at the lessons one can pick up from the movie.

1. Anger truly rests in the bosom of fools.
“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.” – Don Vito Corleone

Don Vito Corleone’s first child Santino (Sonny) was hot-headed and that was his undoing. He smashed cameras, yelled at the Don’s consigliere Tom Hagen and publicly beat the sister’s husband, Carlo to a pulp. In the end, he became predictable, manipulable and was massacred.

2. Money is always an issue even amongst friends.
“Friendship and money. Oil and water” – Michael Corleone

How often have we heard people say “don’t mix friendship with business”? Friendship tends to take a back seat in business because everybody is out to make profits. It is all about personal interests and this can put a strain on a friendship.

3. Wisdom is better than strength.
“The sicker you get, the wiser you get” – Kay Corleone
“Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.” – Don Vito Corleone

Initially, Sonny was perceived to be stronger thn Michael but in the long run, Michael proved to be a better don with his wisdom. Sonny was temperamental and acted on impulse whilst Michael was wise, intelligent and calculative.

4. Power intoxicates like wine.
“Power corrupts those who do not have it.” – Calo

Vito Corleone built the Don Corleone empire on friendship, humility, loyalty and family. This earned him respect, love and power. He was never power drunk or money conscious; all he asked in return was friendship and loyalty. However, Micheal was the complete opposite. He focused so much on power and money, and succeeded in legitimising the family business but lost all the friends and family around him. He drove his wife, Kay, away, murdered his brother Fredo and his sister Connie’s husband, and questioned Tom’s loyalty – the only person that was ever present for him. He ended up alone and abandoned in contrast to Vito who died at an old age in the midst of family and friends.

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5. Violence is the last resort.
“Once war erupts, lives are lost, business close down or completely halts. I don’t like violence Tom. I am a business man. Blood is a big expense.” – Don Sollozo
“I hoped we could come here and reason together. And, as a reasonable man, I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to find a peaceful solution to these problems.” – Don Vito Corleone

Despite being a movie centred on the Italian mafia, it is interesting to note that diplomacy was chosen over violence throughout the movie. Don Vito Corleone was always diplomatic and always made an offer you can’t refuse.

6. Family is everything.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. The only wealth in this world is children, more than all the money,  power and wealth” – Don Vito Corleone

The movie depicts Vito Corleone as a family man who gave everything for his family. He adopted Tom Hagen as his son just like the Abbandando family adopted him after he fled Sicily. He repaid the Abbandandos, by making Genco Abbandando the first consigliere of the Corleone family.

7. Keep your business private.
“Never tell anyone outside the family what you are thinking again.” – Don Vito Corleone

Every family has secrets that are exclusive to them. It’s best to keep your business private. Don’t discuss your personal or family issues/business to outsiders. Someone may use the information in their favour or for their own personal gain.

8. Afford people some level of privacy; don’t meddle in their affairs.
“Sonny don’t get involved.” – Carmela Corleone to Sonny after he tried to break the fight between the sister Connie and husband Carlo at the dinner table.
“It don’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand.” – Don Vito Corleone

Everybody wants a little privacy. Try to mind your own business. Don’t take aspirin for other people’s headache. Giving personal advice on personal matters is a no-no unless your opinion is sought for.

9. Emotions cloud your judgments.
“Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment.” – Michael Corleone

People often get emotional and take sides in every situation and become biased. The emotions cloud what they think they see. Don’t make decisions when you are angry and don’t make promises when you are happy.

10. Don’t mix business with pleasure.
“I’m here on business I leave tomorrow now get rid of them. Come on, I’m tired. Get rid of the band, too.” – Michael Corleone to his brother Fredo after the latter offered him some girls.

We all struggle to maintain focus in our daily lives. Mixing business with pleasure can derail your focus and make you lose the big picture. Michael was a very focused business man, which helped him to come up with a solution to problems at a quicker speed.

11. Respect is earned not given.
“Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” – Don Vito Corleone

We often delude ourselves that we are owed respect because of our talent, money, fame, beauty, intelligence etc. The naked truth is that no matter how awesome you may think you are, no one owes you shit..you have to earn it. Don Vito Corleone earned the respect of people in his neighbourhood by making sure he addressed the concerns of the people unlike Don Fanucci who terrorised the neighbourhood and let them weak his beak a little.

12. Health is wealth.
Good health is the most important thing. More  than success, more than money, more than power – Hyman Roth

This is just to reiterate what we already know. A healthy man is a wealthy man. Just because you are trying to make ends meet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your health and take care of yourself. Exercise often and watch what you consume.

13. Don’t cry wolf too often lest people will doubt your sincerity.
“He’s been dying from the same heart attack for the last twenty years.” – Michael Corleone

Regurgitating your words will make it hard for people to believe whatever that comes out of your mouth overtime. Hyman Roth kept complaining about his deteriorating health to a point that no one believed him anymore. Michael eventually got tired of his complaints and made him sleep with the fishes.

14 First cut is the deepest.
We all carry emotional and physical scars from life battles but first cut is the deepest. And it will always be. Our past will always determine the way we act in the present and see the future. Don Cicci massacred young Vito Corleone’s family and made him an orphan. He only escaped because the mum held a knife to Don Cicci’s throat and let him abscond. He never forgot that and returned to Sicily years later to kill Don Cicci.

15. Jealousy is for the weak.
Movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said ‘Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn .’ We only feel jealous towards others when we think we are in direct competition with them. Fredo Corleone was annoyed by his father’s decision to make Michael the next Don following the death of Sonny. Hyman Roth played on Fredo’s weakness, naivety and jealousy for his younger brother, Michael and used him as a pawn in an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the Don.

What did you learn from the movie that I omitted? Please do tell.