When You Need Encouragement
October 20, 2019
Author: Bianca Yang
This post was originally going to go on Twitter but I kept hitting Refresh and clearing out my Tweets. That was frustrating enough to convince me to just write a longer form post about it.
Alexey Guzey curates a weekly “Best of Twitter” that you should checked out. It contained a tweet which linked to a page which is the reason for this post.
That page contains a bunch of heartwarming quotes from greats like Richard Feynman (his letter to his former student Koichi is touching, especially given how much of a uninhibited maverick he often portrays himself as, Brian Eno, and Bill Thurston. I highly recommend taking 30 min to read all of the quotes.
I decided sometime in the latter half of college that everybody’s feelings are valid. It is invalid to say someone shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling, that they should stop their current emotions, that their feelings are wrong. People feel what they feel for complex, often inexplicable, even inexpressible reasons. Do not deny someone the space and right to express the crazy chemistry their body is producing. What you can do is support them, validate their feelings, and help them move into a place where they can have better feelings. Remember that only they can make a change. All you can do is coach them, nudge them, and be there for them as they decide what step to make next. You cannot force someone’s behavior (unless you are the government . You can merely help them see the world in a way that changes the cost-benefit analysis of the playing field.
Because everyone’s feelings are valid, everyone’s interests are also valid. This is a point that is touched upon by multiple quotes in M. Nielsen’s page. Whatever you are interested in is interesting. You will encounter a lot of resistance from people with resources you want (most of the time, it will be money; sometimes, it will be emotional support) against what you think is interesting. Do not give in because it will wear away at your soul and your sense of self-awareness / self-understanding –> creativity and lead to learned helplessness. Do not think that risk-averse behavior is unique to those who “have not made it”. Even the successful, as one of Brian Eno’s quotes points out, can be tied down by their previous successes.
You must guide yourself by your inner compass. Only you know what matters to you. Only you know what makes your heart sing, your eyes light up, your brain not fatigue even as you begin your 25th hour of continuous work on a project. It may take you decades, multiple jobs, multiple schools, multiple PIs, multiple relationships, multiple failures to get to where you feel like you, but that’s all good. Your mental toolbox will be larger for it. Truly, from so many pieces I have read about people who have accomplished great things, from Kaihogyo to near enlightenment (Alan Watts, J Krishnamurti, and similar people), to PoW survival stories, to Holocaust survivor stories, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. In order to achieve great breakthroughs, you must be willing to not only jump into the rabbit, but to digger deeper, to dig until your nails crack and bleed, until your lungs become filled with dust, until you nearly cannot handle the isolation, the depression, the physical suffering. Once you have breached the doors of death and near end, then you can see the light, the truth at the other side. I do not find it a mere coincidence that we associate depression and mental instability with great philosophers and thinkers, that founders tend to suffer from depression, that CEOs tend to be sociopathic. These are all adaptations to the struggles they face. And perhaps, if you follow Buddhist thinking, their depression is a sign that they have not yet made it to Enlightenment. Some more meditation and thinking and reflection on the truths of suffering and desire would lead them through the darkness of their current situation. The only issue with following Buddhist philosophy to its ultimate end, I think, is that you end up realizing that there is nothing left to be done. One who has achieved Enlightenment can sit back and merely observe the world.
I apologize if the past paragraph was too bleak, too out of line with the emotion of the quotes page I linked to. These were all “realizations” that I had during college that I still find to be largely true. I welcome any thoughts on why I’m a crackpot, why I’m almost right, and anything in between.
Regardless of what you think of the bleak paragraph, remember that you know your own truth. Subconsciously, every feeling you have, be it boredom or happiness or fear or sadness or anger, is guiding you towards what you know to be truth. Follow your heart, because it’s the one thing that cannot betray you (I think your mind is the betrayer).
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