Growing up, I often heard a common phrase used in my mother culture: “homes are secrets.” This was often the go-to response when anyone verbalized a judgment about how others live their lives and the choices they make. Eastern cultures are known for their emphasis on community, but there is also a sacred element of privacy in the understanding that nobody knows what happens behind closed doors.
Each of us has a path to discover, and the revelations do not end until our lives end. Perhaps, there will even be more to discover after death. Our time in this world is so fleeting, a blip in the collective human memory. Why are we so keen on spending this precious time judging others?
If I’ve learned anything over the course of the past two years, as my Facebook feed started erupting with international stories of my friends’ milestones and setbacks, it is that we all do things differently. Some of us value education. Some value travel. Some value homes. Some value big weddings. Some value marriage. Some value being single. Some value wealth. Some value luxury cars. Some value huge book collections. Some value work. Some value retirement.
The bottom line is: everyone does life differently, and that is the beauty of it.
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In my family, when we were kids, we were taught to respect everyone’s personal space. This meant keeping a fair distance unless invited closer, not asking extremely personal questions, and keeping our noses out of other people’s business. Moreover, under no circumstances were we to ever ask anyone for money, or about money.
Then, we grew up, and found people invading our personal spaces, asking us to divulge private information about ourselves and our families (both original and new), and running live commentary on everything we do with our education, careers, mortgages, family decisions, etc.
I am therefore a firm believer in boundaries, while maintaining community.
I often work with young adults who are trying to choose an academic path. They ask me what they should do. They ask their parents what they should do. They ask teachers and friends what they should do. Sometimes, they resort to online discussion forums and ask strangers what they should do.
My advice always is: take your parents’, teachers’, and counsellor’s advice into account, ignore everyone else, and then make the decision that you feel right about.
This becomes more and more crucial over time. Not all advice is good advice. A select few people should be your guides; choose them wisely, and be sure that they are advising you towards your personal truth. A good coach helps you succeed by capitalizing on your strengths and ambitions. Choose the mentor wisely, then pick and choose the advice that aligns with your personal values, and finally do what you feel right about.
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This morning, I woke up thinking about affluence and poverty. I think we can all agree that wealth is a matter of perspective. You can be making 50k or 200k a year and consider yourself “poor” if you like keeping up with the Kardashians. Meanwhile, in comparison to most people on Earth, you are exceptionally wealthy if you are making 50k independently. Social status is funny in this way; the measure of wealth and poverty is in constant flux depending on where you are standing.
For some reason, it seems more and more people around me are complaining about money these days. Perhaps it’s just a natural phase as things begin to change and evolve in our lives. There is a very clear rejection of the “rich” although, for all intents and purposes, I would not classify any of my friends as poor. In fact, I wouldn’t classify most people in this country as poor. I’ve seen poverty, and it isn’t the inability to purchase a BMW. Yet, oddly enough, I hear the phrase “we’re poor” being tossed around by people who are even more educated and have higher paying jobs than me.
I am often taken aback by such statements. “If I do not consider myself poor, how can you?” I wonder how little of the world they must have seen to so confidently complain and insist that they lack, all while I can very clearly observe their outrageous spending habits.
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As a teenager, I had a surprising fascination with the art of communication. At 14 years old, I was already reading books about body language, the hand shake, and active listening. I was especially interested in how meaning varies across cultures. The same gesture or mannerism that would be considered good behaviour in one culture may signify something rude or obnoxious in another. What a big, big world.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that my own body language, handshake, gestures, mannerisms, and listening skills have varied depending on what I was personally going through. I no longer believe that I can follow a formula in a book because you can’t fake any of this… people can always tell. This is why you might meet someone who is sharp and has perfect body language, yet your gut tells you not to trust them. Even if their intentions are good, the forced behaviour comes across as orchestrated and fake.
Instead, there has to be a balance between understanding how behaviours are perceived by a dominant culture, and adapting them in such a way that reflects your inner self authentically. This makes all the difference between “hey, you’re super easy to talk to!” and “hmmm… she’s nice but, I don’t know, there’s something not quite right about her…”
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In some Arabic cultures, when someone gets something they have been hoping for, people say: “her intention was pure!” or “he must have pure will!” This signals to a deeply held cultural belief that the pure of heart will always be cared for by God. They do not receive miracles or luck by accident, but rather, due to their own goodness.
Intention isn’t everything… but it certainly plays a big role in shaping the lives we build for ourselves, as it feeds our actions. In pursuit of good friends and fun company, one will find himself out of luck if he himself is neither friendly nor fun. In pursuit of wealth, one will find herself penniless when she exercises greed towards others. In pursuit of love, one stands alone and disheartened if his primary intention is to take from love, and not give back to it.
If we are aware of our negative intentions and recognize the consequences, we can put them in check and gradually practice intentions that are better aligned with the path of happiness. But, if we decide to excuse our negative intentions, we cannot hope that nobody will notice, because they will. We cannot escape our intentions; we might as well plaster neon signs on our foreheads that tell it like it is.
There will always be people out there who are better off, and worse off, than you are. Be genuinely happy for their successes. Be genuinely sad for their pain. Be genuinely afraid for them when they get sick. Be genuinely excited for them when they get that promotion. If you are not genuine, they will be able to tell, and you will have missed the point of this life entirely.
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The great Buddha said: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Anger deteriorates the self and destroys the soul. It may happen gradually, over the course of a lifetime, but the effects are permanent and damaging as ever.
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“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing” – Annie Dillard.
It seems to me that we spend much, perhaps even most, of our lives waiting… and wasting time. I wish I could say that I’ve uncovered a groundbreaking plan to resolve this. Truthfully, I believe that the majority of people who claim to have such a plan are full of themselves. I think that all we can really do is try really (really!) hard to make the most of it.
I don’t have the answers for this one.
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The feminist path was the path least trodden for a very long time and, consequently, walking it was arguably a nightmare for the brave women and men who were fighting for gender equality right from the beginning. Today, there is still a significant plight that feminists have to endure internationally, but I think the barriers and obstacles are a little bit different.
For women, one cannot speak of lifestyle design and generating luck without speaking of feminism. For the men who love them, the struggle becomes more and more apparent with time, and it becomes a shared struggle for the sake of that love.
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When I think about the good moments I spent with my grandmothers and mom, there is always a string of memories attached to the meals we shared. It’s interesting how common it is for people to associate very good traditional food with their grandmothers and mothers. Everyone seems to be especially nostalgic nowadays, in the prime of fast food and quick bites. Even the healthiest among us are often reaching for a low fat, low carb, high protein packaged donut… that expires in 2025. For lack of a better word… yuck.
The food we eat today endures some major struggles. The meat does not go from the farmer’s hand to the butcher’s to our kitchens anymore. By the time something reaches your dinner table, hundreds of people and machines have touched it, and it has probably travelled a long distance. For the conscientious individuals who care about what they put in their mouths, the last step of the process, cooking, is the first place to start regaining control.
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“Kids today are spoiled by participation trophies!”
“Oh! Old people! They can never think outside the box!”
“Millennials and their avocado toast! Of course they can’t afford housing!”
“The Baby Boomers ruined the earth and the economy for us!”
STOP. Wait a minute. Fill your cup, put some liquor in it.
It is so easy to blame, but the root of blame is ignorance.
The only pathway to true understanding is conversation, research, and asking all the right questions. Blaming a group of people for something you don’t like only hinders the process of understanding what really caused the problem. Then, good luck solving it!
Newsflash: a generation consists of A LOT of people. Think about yourself for a moment. Which generation were you born into? How many of the stereotyped characteristics of that generation actually apply to you? Are you another highly predictable number?
Don’t tell me, let me guess… you’re different!
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