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Autor: 50 Cent, Robert Greene
The 50th Law je takovým nepřímým pokračováním asi nejznámější knihy Roberta Greena, The 48 Laws of Power.
„Padesátý zákon“ je pak slovní hříčkou na 50 Centa, známého rappera, který na knize s Robertem spolupracoval.
Ten totiž Roberta fascinoval svou absencí strachu, ať už v muzice, byznysu nebo životě obecně.
Ono se ani není čemu divit.
Fifty od puberty na ulicích hustlil drogy, tátu nepoznal, mámu mu zavraždili, a tak vyrůstal s prarodiči v přeplněném domě, kde ho nikdo nestíhal hlídat.
A když už si myslel, že z toho konečně vypadne a začne naplno dělat muziku, tak ještě před vydáním první desky schytal 9 kulek, přičemž jedna mu prošla tváří a jen tak tak ho nezabila.
(Doporučuju film Get Rich or Die Tryin’, který Fiftyho příběh vypravuje. Za kvalitu neručím, viděl jsem ho ještě na gymplu 😛 – ale soundtrack pořád nemá chybu!)
V úvodu knihy se tak Robert zaobírá obecným strachem a úzkostmi, které jsou ještě zveličovány moderním způsobem života a médii a které nás tak nesmyslně svazují. Poukazuje na to, že je to všechno o změně mindsetu.
Poté je kniha rozdělena na 10 kapitol, které rozvádějí jednotlivé charakteristické prvky lidí, kteří stejně jako 50 Cent do všeho skáčou hlavou napřed:
1. Intenzivní realismus
Vždy mějte oči na šťopkách a neztrácejte styk s realitou. Neodbíhejte do vzdušných zámků, pokud se zrovna nedaří, a naopak se nenechte uchlácholit, pokud jste oblkopeni úspěchem.
Každý jsme sám. Z toho bychom neměli mít strach, ale spíš pocit svobody. Síla přichází zevnitř a ne ze závilosti na někom nebo na něčem.
Události jsou neutrálního charakteru. Záleží jen na tom, jak je zaobalíme. Pokud na první pohled negativní věc přetransformujeme do něčeho kladného, lépe se nám půjde dopředu.
4. Vypočítané momentum
Tady mě zaujala hlavně tahle myšlenka:
Pokud začneme mít strach, je potřeba se přinutit do odvážnějších kroků. Pokud cítíme vztek, je třeba se se stejnou intenzitou zaměřit na něco, co milujeme nebo obdivujeme. Silné emoce mají tendenci se vykrátit, což nám může pomoci posunout se dál.
Tahle kapitola mi dělala největší problémy – ale to je jen a jen dobře.
Nejsem totiž tak asertivní, jak bych si přál, spíš se snažím vyvarovat konfliktům a raději ustoupím, než abych se s někým dohadoval a něco vyhrocoval. A to není úplně dobře, protože ostatní toho můžou dobře využívat.
Tady tak Robert radí, že někdy je potřeba trošku přitvrdit. Někdy je potřeba hrát lva, někdy lišku, podle toho s jakým člověkem jednáme nebo v jaké situaci se nacházíme. A jak říká Fifty:
„Kluk, který se na školním dvorku nechce prát, vždycky odejde s monoklem. Když dáš najevo, že uděláš cokoliv, aby ses vyhnul problému, to je ten moment, kdy se dostaneš do problému.“
Je třeba jít příkladem a své lidi vést ne svým postavením, ale svými činy.
Robert tu také poukazuje na to, že je lepší být přísný vůdce, od kterého si lidé budou vážit každého poplácání po rameni, než nadřízený-kamarád, který sice se všemi dobře vychází, ale jeho slovo nevyvolává takový respekt.
Musíme se neustále ujišťovat, že jsme nepřišli o spojení se svým okolím, svými kořeny, svým publikem, svým cílem. A pokud ano, tak se rychle snažit napravit kurz.
Neustále je třeba grindit a zdokonalovat tak své schopnosti. Experimentovat formou pokus-omyl, začít s něčím jednoduchým, plně si vštípit pravidla hry a nezapomínat na detaily. A hlavně v tom vytrvat.
Tuhle kapitolu bych shrnul uvedeným citátem Jamese Baldwina:
„Dovolte mi podotknout, že svoboda není něco, co někomu můžete dát; svoboda je něco, co si lidé mohou sami vzít, a lidé jsou tak svobodní, jak sami chtějí.“
Závěrečná kapitola je o uvědomění si (a přijmutí) vlastní smrtelnosti, přičemž se tu hodně ukazují prvky Stoicismu. V jednom odstavci:
Od okamžiku, kdy jsme se narodili, v sobě nosíme smrt jako neustálou možnost. Pokud bychom se před touto myšlenkou snažili uhýbat nebo ji potlačit, držet smrt za dveřmi, odřízli bychom se také od života. Pokud se bojíme smrti, pak se bojíme i života.
… your fears are a kind of prison that confines you within a limited range of action. The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live.
Instead of a simple, intense fear of something powerful and real, we developed a kind of generalized anxiety. It was as if the thousands of years of feeling fear in the face of nature could not go away—we had to find something at which to direct our anxiety, no matter how small or improbable.
With the increasing sophistication of the media and the visceral quality of the imagery, they have been able to give us the feeling that we are fragile creatures in an environment full of danger—even though we live in a world infinitely safer and more predictable than anything our ancestors knew.
You can just as easily see a crisis or problem as a challenge, an opportunity to prove your mettle, the chance to strengthen and toughen yourself, or a call to collective action. By seeing it as a challenge, you will have converted this negative into a positive purely by a mental process that will result in positive action as well.
What separates those who go under and those who rise above adversity is the strength of their will and their hunger for power.
Those who follow the 50th Law are not afraid of change or chaos; they embrace it by being as fluid as possible. They move with the flow of events and then gently channel them in the direction of their choice, exploiting the moment. Through their mind-set, they convert a negative (unexpected events) into a positive (an opportunity).
It is not the physical reality of your environment that matters but your mental state, how you come to deal with the adversity that is part of life on every level.
See Things for What They Are – Intense Realism
… the greatest danger you face is your mind growing soft and your eye getting dull. When things get tough and you grow tired of the grind, your mind tends to drift into fantasies; you wish things were a certain way, and slowly, subtly, you turn inward to your thoughts and desires. If things are going well, you become complacent, imagining that what you have now will continue forever. You stop paying attention. Before you know it, you end up overwhelmed by the changes going on and the younger people rising up around you, challenging your position.
A mediocre general will confine his knowledge to the physical terrain. A better general will try to expand his knowledge by reading reports about the other factors that influence an army. And the superior general will try to intensify this knowledge by observing as much as he can with his own eyes or consulting firsthand sources.
This must be the power and the direction of your mind whenever you encounter some problem—to bore deeper and deeper until you get at something basic and at the root. Never be satisfied with what presents itself to your eyes. See what underlies it all, absorb it, and then dig deeper. Always question why this particular event has happened, what the motives of the various actors are, who really is in control, who benefits by this action.
Make Everything Your Own – Self-Reliance
True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement.
You are more alone than you imagine. This should not be a source of fear but of freedom. When you prove to yourself that you can get things on your own, then you experience a sense of liberation.
It is a kind of exercise you must practice on a daily basis—weaning yourself from dependencies, listening less to others’ voices and more to your own, cultivating new skills.
Understand: you are one of a kind. Your character traits are a kind of chemical mix that will never be repeated in history. There are ideas unique to you, a specific rhythm and perspective that are your strengths, not your weaknesses. You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you.
Those who are self-reliant turn to people out of strength—a desire for pleasant company or an exchange of ideas. If people do not do what they want or expect, they are not hurt or let down. Their happiness comes from within and is all the more profound for that reason.
Turn Shit into Sugar – Opportunism
Events in life are not negative or positive. They are completely neutral. The universe does not care about your fate; it is indifferent to the violence that may hit you or to death itself. Things merely happen to you. It is your mind that chooses to interpret them as negative or positive.
Mentally framing a negative event as a blessing in disguise makes it easier for you to move forward. It is a kind of mental alchemy, transforming shit into sugar.
Keep Moving – Calculated Momentum
To combat this, you must learn the art of counterbalance. When you are fearful, force yourself to act in a bolder fashion than usual. When you feel inordinate hate, find some object of love or admiration that you can focus on with intensity. One strong emotion tends to cancel out the other and help you move past it.
You provide the framework, based on your knowledge and expertise, but you allow room for this project to be shaped by those involved in it. They are motivated and creative, helping to give the project more flow and force. You are not going too far in this process; you set the overall direction and tone. You are simply letting go of that fearful need to make people do exactly as you desire. In the long run, you will find that your ability to gently divert people’s energy in your direction gives you a wider range of control over the shape and result of the project.
Know When to Be Bad – Aggression
As Fifty had learned, talent and good intentions are never enough in this world; you need to be fearless and strategic.
THE WAY I LEARNED IT, THE KID IN THE SCHOOL YARD WHO DOESN’T WANT TO FIGHT ALWAYS LEAVES WITH A BLACK EYE. IF YOU INDICATE YOU’LL DO ANYTHING TO AVOID TROUBLE, THAT’S WHEN YOU GET TROUBLE. —50 Cent
What Wright had discovered was simple: when you submit in spirit to aggressors or to an unjust and impossible situation, you do not buy yourself any real peace. You encourage people to go further, to take more from you, to use you for their own purposes.
This is how it is in life for everyone: people will take from you what they can. If they sense that you are the type of person who accepts and submits, they will push and push until they have established an exploitative relationship with you. Some will do this overtly; others are more slippery and passive aggressive. You must demonstrate to them that there are lines that cannot be crossed; they will pay a price for trying to push you around. This comes from your attitude—fearless and always prepared to fight.
FDR had understood the basic principle in squaring off against aggressors who are direct and relentless. If you meet them head on, you are forced to fight on their terms. Unless you happen to be an aggressive type, you are generally at a disadvantage against those who have simple ideas and fierce energy.
Instead of reacting, you must give aggressors some space to go further with their attacks, getting them to expose themselves in the process and provide you plenty of juicy targets to hit. If you become too active and forceful in response, you look defensive. You are playing the fox to their lion—remaining cool and calculating, doing whatever you can to make them more emotional and baiting them to fall apart through their own reckless energy.
She understood that with passive aggressors you must not get emotional and drawn into their endless intrigues. If you respond indirectly, with a kind of passive aggression yourself, you play into their hands—they are better at this game than you are.
The only way to treat these types is to take bold, uncompromising action that either discourages further nonsense or sends them running away. They respond only to power and leverage. Having allies higher up the chain can serve as a means of blocking them. You are playing the lion to their fox, making them afraid of you. They see there will be real consequences if they continue their behavior in any form.
IN THE RING, OUR OPPONENTS CAN GOUGE US WITH THEIR NAILS OR BUTT US WITH THEIR HEADS AND LEAVE A BRUISE, BUT WE DON’T DENOUNCE THEM FOR IT OR GET UPSET WITH THEM OR REGARD THEM FROM THEN ON AS VIOLENT TYPES. WE JUST KEEP AN EYE ON THEM… NOT OUT OF HATRED OR SUSPICION. JUST KEEPING A FRIENDLY DISTANCE. WE NEED TO DO THAT IN OTHER AREAS. WE NEED TO EXCUSE WHAT OUR SPARRING PARTNERS DO, AND JUST KEEP OUR DISTANCE—WITHOUT SUSPICION OR HATRED. —Marcus Aurelius
Lead from the Front – Authority
YOU MUST ADOPT THE OPPOSITE STYLE: IMBUE YOUR TROOPS WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS, NOT WORDS. THEY SEE YOU WORKING HARDER THAN ANYONE, HOLDING YOURSELF TO THE HIGHEST STANDARDS, TAKING RISKS WITH CONFIDENCE, AND MAKING TOUGH DECISION. THIS INSPIRES AND BINDS THE GROUP TOGETHER. IN THESE DEMOCRATIC TIMES, YOU MUST PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.
The opposite style, leading from the front and by example, has the same power in the office as it does on the battlefield. Leaders who work harder than anyone else, who practice what they preach, who are not afraid to be accountable for tough decisions or to take risks, will find they have created a well of respect that will pay great dividends down the road. They can ask for sacrifices, punish troublemakers, and make occasional mistakes all without facing the usual grumbling and doubts. They don’t have to yell, complain, and force their men and women to follow. People do so willingly.
Any titles, money, or privilege you inherit are actually hindrances. They delude you into believing you are owed respect. If you continue to impose your will because of such privileges, people will come to disdain and despise you. Instead only your actions can prove your worth. They tell people who you are. You must imagine that you are continually being challenged to show that you deserve the position you occupy. In a culture full of fakery and hype, you will stand out as someone authentic and worthy of respect.
If you have chosen the soft, pleasing, compliant style of leadership, out of fear of being disliked, you will find yourself with less and less room to compel people to work harder or make sacrifices. If you suddenly try to be tough, they often feel wounded and personally upset. They can move from love to hate. The opposite approach yields the opposite result. If you build a reputation for toughness and getting results, people might resent you, but you will establish a foundation of respect. You are demonstrating genuine qualities of leadership that speak to everyone. Now with time and a well-founded authority, you have room to back off and reward people, even to be nice. When you do so, it will be seen as a genuine gesture, not an attempt to get people to like you, and it will have double the effect.
1. THE VISIONARY
We are naturally consumed by immediate battles and problems; we find it very difficult, if not unnatural, to focus with any depth on the future. Thinking ahead requires a particular thought process that comes with practice. It means seeing something practical and achievable several years down the road, and mapping out how this goal can be achieved. It means thinking in branches, coming up with several paths to get there, depending on circumstances. It means being emotionally attached to this idea, so that when a thousand distractions and interruptions seem to push you off course, you have the strength and purpose to keep at it.
You must play this visionary role with some dramatic flair, like Edison who was a consummate performer and promoter.
2. THE UNIFIER
A group needs a centripetal force to give it unity and cohesion but it is not enough to have that be you and the force of your personality. Instead it should be a cause that you fearlessly embody.
3. THE ROLE MODEL
You need to develop a team of lieutenants who are infused with your ideas, your spirit, and your values. Once you have such a team, you can give them latitude to operate on their own, learning for themselves and bringing their own creativity to the cause.
In crafting this team, look for people who share your values and are open to learning. Do not be seduced by a glittering résumé. You want them near you, to absorb your spirit and ways of doing things. Once you feel they have the proper training, you must not be afraid to let go of the reins and give them more independence. In the end, this will save you much energy and allow you to continue focusing on the greater strategic picture.
4. THE BOLD KNIGHT
You force yourself to initiate new projects and domains to conquer; you take proactive measures against possible dangers on the horizon; you seize the initiative against your rivals. You keep your group marching and on the offensive. This will excite them and give them a feeling of movement. You are not taking unnecessary risks, but simply adding a dash of aggression to your normally staid group. They become used to seeing you out in front and grow addicted to the excitement you bring with each new campaign.
Know Your Environment from the Inside Out – Connection
1. CRUSH ALL DISTANCE
… in this day and age, to reach people you must have access to their inner lives—their frustrations, aspirations, resentments. To do so, you must crush as much distance as possible between you and your audience.
2. OPEN INFORMAL CHANNELS OF CRITICISM AND FEEDBACK
It is much different when you interact directly with the public and hear in the flesh their criticisms and feedback. You discover what lies at the root of their discontent, the various nuances of how your work affects them. Their problems come to life, and any solutions you come up with have more relevance. You create a back-and-forth dynamic in which their ideas, involvement, and energy can be harnessed for your purposes. If some distance between you and the public must be maintained, by the nature of your group or enterprise, then the ideal is to open up as many informal channels as possible, getting your feedback straight from the source.
3. RECONNECT WITH YOUR BASE
Know your base and work to reconnect with it. Keep your associations with it alive, intense, and present. Return to your origins—the source of all inspiration and power.
4. CREATE THE SOCIAL MIRROR
Instead of turning inward, consider people’s coolness to your idea and their criticisms as a kind of mirror they are holding up to you.
When your work does not communicate with others, consider it your own fault—you did not make your ideas clear enough and you failed to connect with your audience emotionally. This will spare you any bitterness or anger that might come from people’s critiques. You are simply perfecting your work through the social mirror.
A REALLY INTELLIGENT MAN FEELS WHAT OTHER MEN ONLY KNOW. —Baron de Montesquieu
Respect the Process—Mastery
… to be a successful hustler you had to accustom yourself to the slow, grinding pace of the job.
During the long hours with nothing to do, he would contemplate the future and come up with detailed plans of what he would accomplish year by year—ending with his eventual escape from street hustling. He would move into music, and then into business. To take the first step, he would have to save his money. The thought of this goal helped him endure the daily tedium of the job. In these slow hours, he also devised new hustling schemes, with the idea of continually improving himself at this job.
… he could get whatever he wanted through sheer persistence rather than by violence or force; progressing step-by-step was the only way to succeed in anything.
Once you start down this path, two things will happen: First, having the larger goal will lift your mind out of the moment and help you endure the hard work and drudgery. Second, as you become better at this task or craft, it becomes increasingly pleasurable. You see your improvement; you see connections and possibilities you hadn’t noticed before. Your mind becomes absorbed in mastering it further, and in this absorption you forget all your problems—fears for the future or people’s nasty games. But unlike the diversion that comes from outside sources, this one comes from within. You are developing a lifelong skill, the kind of mental discipline that will serve as the foundation of your power.
To make this work you must choose a career or a craft that excites you in some deep way. You are creating no dividing line between work and pleasure. Your pleasure comes in mastering the process itself, and in the mental immersion it requires.
Before it is too late we must wake up and realize that real power and success can come only through mastering a process, which in turn depends on a foundation of discipline that we are constantly keeping sharp.
What kept them going was the power they quickly discovered through mastery of certain steps. Sudden insights came to them that seem like genius to us, but are actually part of any intense learning process.
1. PROGRESS THROUGH TRIAL AND ERROR
Too often our concept of learning is to absorb ideas from books, to do what others tell us to, and perhaps to do some controlled exercises. But this is an incomplete and fearful concept of learning—cut off from practical experience. We are creatures who make things; we don’t simply imagine them. To master any process you must learn through trial and error.
Taken far enough, you gain a fingertip feel for what needs to be done because your knowledge is tied to something physical and visceral. And having such intuition is the ultimate point of mastery.
2. MASTER SOMETHING SIMPLE
When you take the time to master a simple process and overcome a basic insecurity, you develop certain skills that can be applied to anything. You see instantly the reward that comes from patience, practice, and discipline. You have the sense that you can tackle almost any problem in the same way. You create for yourself a pattern of confidence that will continue to rise.
3. INTERNALIZE THE RULES OF THE GAME
… when you enter a group as part of a job or a career, there are all kinds of rules that govern behavior—values of good and bad, power networks that must be respected, patterns to be followed for successful action. If you do not patiently observe and learn them well, you will make all kinds of mistakes without knowing why or how. Think of social and political skills as a craft that you must master as well as any other.
4. ATTUNE YOURSELF TO THE DETAILS
Often when you begin a project of any kind, it is from the wrong end. You tend to think first of what you want to accomplish, imagining the glory and money it will bring you if it succeeds. You then proceed to make this concept come to life. But as you go forward you often lose patience, because the small steps to get there are not nearly as exciting as the ambitious visions in your head. You must try instead the opposite approach, which can lead to very different results. You have a project you wish to bring to life, but you begin by immersing yourself in the details of the subject or field. You look at the materials you have to work with, the tastes of your target audience, and the latest technical advances in the field. You take pleasure in going deeper and deeper into these fine points—your research is intense. From this knowledge, you shape the project itself, grounding it in reality rather than in airy concepts in your head. Operating this way helps you slow your mind down and develop patience for detailed work, an essential skill for mastering any craft.
5. REDISCOVER YOUR NATURAL PERSISTENCE
… try breaking things up into smaller blocks of time. You have a large goal, but there are steps along the way, and steps within the steps. These steps represent months instead of years. Reaching these smaller goals gives you a sense of tangible reward and progress. This will make it easier for you to resist any diversions along the way and fearlessly push ahead. Remember: anything will give way to a sustained, persistent attack on your part.
You discover a calming effect in the repetitive element itself. In this way, boredom becomes your great ally. It helps you to slow things down, develop patience and self-discipline.
Push Beyond Your Limits—Self-Belief
LET ME POINT OUT TO YOU THAT FREEDOM IS NOT SOMETHING THAT ANYBODY CAN BE GIVEN; FREEDOM IS SOMETHING PEOPLE TAKE AND PEOPLE ARE AS FREE AS THE WANT TO BE. —James Baldwin
Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself—your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose—they want to keep you down. You are continually prone to believe these opinions, particularly if your self-image is fragile. In every moment of life you can defy and deny people this power. You do so by maintaining a sense of purpose, a high destiny you are fulfilling. From such a position, people’s attacks do not harm you; they only make you angry and more determined. The higher you raise this self-image, the fewer judgments and manipulations you will tolerate. This will translate into fewer obstacles in your path.
Understand: at any moment you could kick this philosophy and its ideas into the trashcan by doing something irrational and unexpected, contrary to what you have done in the past, an act not possibly explained by your upbringing or nervous system. What prevents you from taking such action is not mommy, daddy, or society, but your own fears. You are essentially free to move beyond any limits others have set for you, to re-create yourself as thoroughly as you wish.
If you had some terribly painful experience in the past, you could choose to let that pain sit there and you could soak in it. On the other hand, you could decide to convert it into anger, a cause to promote, or some form of action. Or you could choose to simply drop it and move on, relishing the freedom and power that that brings you. No one can take away these options or force your response. It is all up to you.
1. DEFY ALL CATEGORIES
Your task is to retain or rediscover those aspects of your character that defy categorization, and to give them even greater play. Remaining unique, you will create something unique and inspire the kind of respect you would never receive from tepid conformity.
2. CONSTANTLY REINVENT YOURSELF
The powerful learn early in life that they have the freedom to mold their image, fitting the needs and moods of the moment. In this way, they keep others off balance and maintain an air of mystery. You must follow this path and find great pleasure in reinventing yourself, as if you were the author writing your own drama.
3. SUBVERT YOUR PATTERNS
What often prevent us from using the mental fluidity and freedom that we naturally possess are the physical routines in our lives. We see the same people and do the same things, and our minds follow these patterns. The solution then is to break this up. For instance, we could deliberately indulge in some random, even irrational act, perhaps doing the very opposite of what we would normally do in our day-to-day life.
We should practice this when we feel particularly blocked and uncreative. In such moments, it is best to be ruthless with ourselves and our patterns.
4. CREATE A SENSE OF DESTINY
… the higher your self-belief, the more your power to transform reality. Having supreme confidence makes you fearless and persistent, allowing you to overcome obstacles that stop most people in their tracks. It makes others believe in you as well. And the most intense form of self-belief is to feel a sense of destiny impelling you forward. This destiny can come from otherworldly sources or it can come from yourself.
5. BET ON YOURSELF
You must always be prepared to place a bet on yourself, on your future, by heading in a direction that others seem to fear. This means you believe that if you fail, you have the inner resources to recover. This belief acts as a kind of mental safety net. When you move ahead on some new venture or direction, your mind will snap to attention; your energy will be focused and intense. By making yourself feel the necessity to be creative, your mind will rise to the occasion.
Confront Your Mortality—the Sublime
IF WE CAN OVERCOME THE FEAR OF DEATH, THEN THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR.
I HAD REACHED THE POINT AT WHICH I WAS NOT AFRAID TO DIE. THIS SPIRIT MADE ME A FREEMAN IN FACT, WHILE I REMAINED A SLAVE IN FORM. —Frederick Douglass
What matters to you now is to live your days well, as fully as possible. You could choose to do this by pursuing endless pleasures, but nothing becomes boring more quickly than having to always search for new distractions. If attaining certain goals becomes your greatest source of pleasure, then your days are filled with purpose and direction, and whenever death comes, you have no regrets.
You now have a way of measuring what matters in life—compared to the shortness of your days, petty battles and anxieties have no weight. You have a sense of urgency and commitment—what you do you must do well, with all of your energy, not with a mind shooting off in a hundred directions.
… to fear his mortality would mean he abhorred nature itself, which decreed the death of all living things, and that would mean he was inferior to the smallest animal that accepted its death without complaint.
As Seneca understood, to free yourself from fear you must work backward. You start with the thought of your mortality. You accept and embrace this reality. You think ahead to the inevitable moment of your death and determine to face it as bravely as possible. The more you contemplate your mortality, the less you fear it—it becomes a fact you no longer have to repress. By following this path, you know how to die well, and so you can now begin to teach yourself to live well. You will not cling to things unnecessarily. You will be strong and self-reliant, unafraid to be alone. You will have a certain lightness that comes with knowing what matters—you can laugh at what others take so seriously. The pleasures of the moment are heightened because you know their impermanence and you make the most of them. And when your time to die comes, as it will some day, you will not cringe and cry for more time, because you have lived well and have no regrets.
1. THE SENSE OF REBIRTH
Whenever life feels particularly dull or confining, we can force ourselves to leave familiar ground. This could mean traveling to some particularly exotic location, attempting something physically challenging (a sea voyage or scaling a mountain), or simply embarking on a new venture in which we are not certain we can succeed.
2. THE SENSE OF EVANESCENCE AND URGENCY
Locked in banal time, we tend to distort events—we see things as being far more important than they are, unaware that in a few weeks or a year, what stirs us all up will not matter.
Contemplating sublime time has innumerable positive effects—it makes us feel a sense of urgency to get things done now, gives us a better grasp of what really matters, and instills a heightened appreciation of the passage of time, the poignancy and beauty of all things that fade away.
3. THE SENSE OF AWE
This sense of awe can be elicited by something vast or strange—endless landscapes (the sea or the desert), monuments from the distant past (the pyramids of Egypt), the unfamiliar customs of people in a foreign land. It can also be sparked by things in everyday life—for instance, focusing on the dizzying variety of animal and plant life around us that took millions of years to evolve into its present form.
4. THE SENSE OF THE OCEANIC, THE CONNECTION TO ALL LIFE
We share the same fate with everyone; we all deserve the same degree of compassion. It is what ultimately links all of us together, and when we look at the people around us we should see their mortality as well.
This can be extended further and further, into the Sublime—death is what links us to all living creatures as well. One organism must die so another can live. It is an endless process that we are a part of. This is what is known as an oceanic feeling—the sensation that we are not separated from the outside world but that we are part of life in all its forms. Feeling this at moments inspires an ecstatic reaction, the very opposite of a morbid reflection on death.
From the moment we are born we carry our death within ourselves as a continual possibility. If we try to avoid or repress the thought, keep death on the outside, we are cutting ourselves off from life as well. If we are afraid of death, then we are afraid of life.