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Life’s Foundations

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“Be Careful What Platform You Choose to Build Your Life On”

As a child, I was taught a song about wise and foolish men. It centred around the types of locations they chose to build their homes. Being a children’s song, it had a lot of repetition, which, of course, all kids love to sing when they are young. But, you knew, when you were getting older, a hint of boredom entered the singing as you just wanted to get to the good part. So, given the subject, I believe you are well past this stage of childhood; I will cut it down to the essentials. The song went something like this.

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”.

The song had a Christian heritage, suggesting that the only foundations worth building were the Christian faith. Regardless of your belief, the concept of a firm foundation of ideas to build your life around is sound. The song itself may have been adapted from another tradition.

Throughout human history, we have looked for answers as to why we are the way we are. What it’s all about, and why are some people luckier than others. What and how do the various foundations that we have or build for ourselves affect us.

In one Chinese philosophy, three factors, or perhaps we can say “foundational elements”, determine why your life is the way it is and are often described as types of luck.

  1. Heaven Luck – You may like to see Heaven Luck as genetic influences, therefore your susceptibility to illness; cosmic forces aka/and your personality and previous karma. These ideas may resonate with you or cause you to roll your eyes. But in simple terms, it is all the stuff that you can’t change about yourself, and the only way to improve your potential destiny is by working on the other “lucks”. The ones you have some control over. It is said this accounts for 30% of how your life is the way it is.
  2. Earth Luck is said to account for around 20% of how your life works out. It represents the environmental influences that affect every day. The state of the world at your birth; And the various political machinations and prosperity of your birth country.
  3. Man Luck is said to be the most important of all “lucks” and is said to account for 50% of all the luck in your life. It is affected by how you deal and interact with those around you, whether you treat them well or poorly. What you think and create with your thoughts. And self-education, i.e., how you seek to better yourself intellectually and spiritually. Finally, what you do and how you respond to the luck you have received.

To continue with the Chinese theme of luck, the first two lucks are probably on a continuum for most people. One end where you are born with excellent genes, with incredible cosmic luck, a wonderful balanced family, located in a rich, abundant country in a time of peace. The other end will be the exact opposite – born with a sickly distribution with cosmic lousy luck in a poverty-stricken country at war into a violent and dysfunctional family.

Most people will fall into somewhere in the middle – some being closer to the “worse end” and others approaching the “better” side. Very few of us will sit at either end. Yet regardless of where someone sits on this continuum, it still accounts for only 50% of the luck for your life. There is still 50% of your life and foundation that you have control over. How we deal with others and how we seek to think and improve our lives. Plus, we control the environments we place ourselves in, how they make us feel, and what opportunities they bring to our lives. So, we, in reality, may be able to influence somewhat more than the 50% of the “luck” in life.

Robert Greene and Curtis Jackson, in “The 50th Law”, outlines such a story. They cover the principles involved in taking his life from the impoverished foundations to a better life, taking advantage of the things that 50 Cent could control – his thoughts and actions.

Even if we are born at the “good” end of the continuum, the world can and will change during our lifetimes. Therefore, it behoves us to spend time on self-reflection and understanding. Look at the Kodak business empire. Kodak, once head of the game, controlled 90% of the 1970’s market, missed the digital revolution. They filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and only managed to survive by selling “the farm” to its competitors. No matter your starting luck, it always pays to be proactive and ahead of the game.

So, if we can influence our life’s luck through our thoughts, actions, and environment, where can we start?

In the investment community, they talk about people getting market-ready before they invest. To have all your financial “ducks in a row”, completing tax returns, clearing up troublesome debt to make yourself as attractive as possible for investors and banks. When you play a poker game, you explore the cards and table before you, ascertaining the risk rewards of playing your delt cards. You may indeed decide not to play. Professionals and amateurs alike spend time getting to understand the game before they put money on the table. And certainly, before they even arrive at a table. They become “Game Ready”.

Interestingly, most of us will spend the time being “market or game ready” but invest very little time in becoming “life ready”. So let us aim to be “life ready”.  And just like a game, let us seek new methods and understandings to enhance our experience and increase our luck.

“Failure is never as frightening as regret.”

So, regardless of age, how can we start? What can we do to understand the platform we are given and the foundations upon which we seek to build?

First – explore the foundations you have been given. Whilst you may have no control over the body or the personality you possess, or your cosmic luck, you can find out WHAT you have to work with. Take time to understand your body and mind, its strengths and weakness its predisposition to health and illness.  Get to know your personality and character, seek to build on your strengths and understand your weakness. To minimize the impacts and build on the benefits. Suppose, if possible, avoid what doesn’t work for you and invest in your strengths.

“We are all born with many talents, many we don’t know we possess; it all depends on the run God gives us.”

Colleen McCullough – “Morgan’s Run.”

When my health started to recover, one of the first things I looked to do was a series of personality tests. I wish to find out what other strengths I had not explored so far, which I may use to turn to careers, given it looked like I could not return to businesses of the past. Were there area’s I could use my talents that were unknown to me?

The more proactive we can be about life, the better our luck can become. It is often easy to see our strengths, but more often than not, our weaknesses hold us back, and we are less willing to deal with or admit too.  By acknowledging them early, we can save ourselves a world of pain and regret.

Around the world, environmentalists and farmers are doing fantastic work regenerating destroyed landscapes. With time and the right tools and ideas, land can come back from the dead and appears like a miracle. Yet, it is always easier and less painful to avoid the devastation in the first place. So, too with ourselves, begin as early as possible to understand our “luck” foundations.  We may not have control over many parts of some of our foundations, but we can seek to understand them and create a life that can spiral up rather than the alternative.

In the environment and family we grow up in, we learn to build what Psychologists call our “map of reality”, the various sets of beliefs, values, cultural identity, and how we see the world. It will be drawn to reflect the areas of safety, how to react to other people, what is acceptable and what is not. Yet as any sailor will tell you, the map is not the territory – the landscape can be very different. Just ask those police officers who rescue many a lost millennial who rely too closely on their satellite navigation. A mistake we can all make with our limited mental maps. And yet, we all too often are unaware that our poorly developed view of the world and life around us causes us problems.

This understanding of a poor “map of reality” is why almost every spiritual tradition emphasis a time of regular reflection, rest days, days of worship, and meditation to spend time away from the everyday. Thus, allowing the unconscious patterns to come to the surface to be explored, reviewed, adapted, or thrown away; Allowing a new map to be drawn. This meditative time increases your awareness. Of course, one must realize that all great traditions in a way create their own maps for us to follow, so not only should we seek to understand our own maps but that of anyone or institution we seek to use as our foundation. They will also have strengths and weaknesses; it is foolish to think otherwise.

Awareness provides the answer to all human problems that actually have a solution.

– Bill Harris

Remember our third “luck”?  It is affected by how you deal and interact with those around you, whether you treat them well or poorly. What you think and create with your thoughts. And self-education – how you seek to better yourself intellectually and spiritually. What you do and respond to the luck you have received. Even though this part of life, we do have the most control of and thus most significant opportunity to control our fate in life. We all too often hand that control over quickly and often to others. We willingly and carelessly absorb all sorts of rubbish without thought or filter. We are not in the director’s chair of our lives.

By not seeking to understand ourselves and our foundations, we leave ourselves open to the winds of fate and the patterns and believes of foundational platforms that could lead to ordinary and meaningless life.

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”

Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5

Till Next Time…

Resources & Further Reading

Thresholds of the Mind – Bill Harris

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win – Maria Konnikova.

The New Science of Super Awareness – free download – Bill Harris.

The 50th law – Robert Greene & 50 Cent

www.thedailystoic.com

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Written By Owen Thomas

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