When asked, many people respond that life is routine, it is boring. Tragically, this is certainly one meaning of the term. A more powerful and, potentially, more redeeming meaning of the phrase is an activity which, when practiced continually, leads to a state of excellence — expertise if you will. At the onset, it is true that we do need to be thoughtful and imaginative when it comes to discovering our true calling, our intrinsic skillset.
Once we believe we have vetted our aptitude, a period of deep introspection is required. Are these truly the gifts I possess or have they been artificially given to me by my parents, friends, or society? If they are real and a part of me, I must embark on a period of reinforcement. These skills must be honed. Am I a natural actor or musician, for example? This is far easier said than actually done. To endlessly practice anything runs the risk of stumbling into pure ennui.
I find that a profound commitment to my development is called for. In today’s world, we increasingly find ourselves assailed by an onslaught of Internet-fueled images. The steps toward self-discovery are fraught with many diversions and frustrations. There must be a first day, a beginning. (1) Today, I am commencing a new regime that will benefit me in the long run.
Sometimes we must go through great trials to obtain our mastery. My personal story: I have always been fascinated with yoga. It invariably appeared exotic and yet highly constructed — useful for health and introspection. After a period of self-study, I engaged a yoga teacher in Taiwan. Something was lacking, however. No matter how assiduously I practiced, I could not rise to the next level of training. I then found that it was possible to perfect my skill at a coaching session in southern India, outside the city of Coimbatore. (2) The class was entitled Inner Engineering. (3) On the surface, truly intriguing.
My attempt at knowledge, nonetheless, was almost foiled at the beginning. Going to India was a first for me and an exciting prospect. I have always found that any adventure means anticipating the unimagined — the strange. The Indian visa system writes the time as day, month, year (DD,MM,YY), while Taiwan follows the American system of the month, day, year (MM,DD,YY). This little oversight on the part of the travel agent and, of course, me — it being my responsibility — produced some rather tragic consequences.
I still had a lot of time on my visa, I thought. Unfortunately, due to the above-mentioned problem, I was actually late. My visa had expired. This realization only occurred upon arrival at New Delhi Airport. No about of begging, pleading, or cajoling would allow the border police to admit me, to simply change the date on the visa. I was not allowed into India and was returned on the same plane. Now the problem: I had transited through Shanghai. The Shanghai airport police detained me for eight hours to ascertain why I had only been in New Delhi for thirty minutes before finally letting me return to Taiwan — terrifying stuff given China’s penchant for detaining Canadians.
Nevertheless, it all worked out, I practice my yoga every day and it has been excellent for my health and for my thinking. The financier and philanthropist, Charles Schwab (4) leaves us with a thought: Most talk about “super-geniuses” is nonsense. I have found that when “stars” drop out, successors are usually at hand to fill their places, and the successors are merely men who have learned by application and self-discipline to get full production from an average, normal brain.
A closing thought: Will Durant misattributes (5) a great quote to Aristotle, but, regardless, it makes the point: We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. The point being that if we do something repeatedly, we will gain a command over its activity.
May I wish all our many readers and supporters a very Merry Christmas. I trust that we all find peace during this wonderful season.
To sum up: This week, we spoke about how routine habits may lead to excellence.
To be noted: From R. Buckminster Fuller (6) — When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
Just for fun:
This week, on your reflective walk, please ponder your own routines in your life..
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave –critical thinking is great!
Quote: Excellence is an ideal that I must embrace.