Category Archives: Self-reliance

Your Blame List

The last time we came to work late, was it the traffic or the weather that we blamed? Or was it  the alarm clock’s fault for it didn’t go off? Ahh, the battery of the cellphone went dead.

When we had a break-up with a lover (or a major falling out with a friend), who did we blame? Ourselves or the other party?

Whenever something goes wrong, seldom or  rarely (or is it never?) do we hold ourselves responsible for it. We always point our finger at something or hold others accountable. When things don’t turn the way we expect them to, we are always ready to check our blame list  to find somebody or something to put the liability on.

This reminds me of one of the narratives of Jim Rohn.*  He said that one day he was asked by his mentor Earl Shoaff, “Jim just out of curiosity tell me how come you haven’t done well up until now?” What Mr. Rohn did, according to him, for him not to look too bad,  was read on his list of why he wasn’t looking good and not doing well. He blamed, among other things,  the government, weather, traffic, company policies, negative relatives, cynical neighbors, economy,  and community.

What about our personal blame lists? Is it as long Mr. Rohn’s. Perhaps it’s longer.

Who do people who could not find jobs blame? Of course the favorite whipping boy – the government. They contend that it is the duty of the government to create job opportunities for them. That is true. But work is something that is not going to be awarded to anybody on a silver platter. We have to search for it and we ought to be prepared. It is our responsibility to get ourselves ready for employment. Get the required education or training. We need to have the necessary knowledge and skills.

What if you could not get the education and training you need? Well, whose fault? Okay, I will give you time to check your blame list.

Done?

Now let’s continue.

Common sense will tell us that the government cannot possibly provide each citizen with a job. It is also impossible for the private sector to employ everybody. That’s just the reality. Harsh it may be. So, what should we do? Simple – be competitive. Be the best in your field or profession. The best ones are always on top of the priority lists of prospective employers. And if in our respective countries there are no job opportunities, or we won’t get the salary we want, let’s consider applying for work overseas. If you’re not satisfied where you are, go somewhere else.

“You can always move out from where you are now to find yourselves better opportunities. You’re not a tree.” That’s also from Mr. Rohn.

The ones who won’t  get employed, or do not want to work for others because they have better plans for themselves, could perhaps succeed as entrepreneurs. Not everybody is trained to be in a workplace and be someone else’s employee. Some of us will be farmers, or fishermen, or plumbers, or drivers, or gardeners. There is always a way to earn an honest living.  Whatever it is that we find as a source of livelihood, let’s us be thankful.

Accept the reality that some are rich and some are poor. And hey, don’t blame the rich if they don’t want to help the poor. Don’t blame your rich siblings, friends, and neighbors if they don’t share with you their blessings. It’s either you work as hard as they did for you to have what they have or be content with what you are capable of having.

Just bear in mind that each of us has a choice to A – Be rich; B – Have the means to meet both ends and at least get extra cash to afford some luxuries in life; or C – Have 3 square meals a day. Yes, I consider A, B and C as choices. It’s up to us to decide what to aim at… which of the three would make us happy.

Some people live simple lives happy to be able to eat three times a day. Some set their ceilings high and sometimes even go through it. Each of us has a chance at A. Nobody would prevent us from wanting to become rich. But becoming that won’t be easy… unless you win millions in the lottery.

There are two ways to go (and robbing a bank is not one of them) for those who would aim at A – hope that you hit that lotto jackpot or work as hard and wisely as those who became millionaires and billionaires did.

And when you fail to be so… when you fail to achieve your dreams and realize your goals… blame no one.

People who suffer from setbacks and face adversities would more often than not blame their friends or family members – parents, siblings, children, spouses –  citing lack of support. Let’s not forget that support is something that is given voluntarily. It is not an entitlement. We could say that it is the obligation of our loved ones to help us. But what if they are not capable of helping for just like us they also need help or they also have problems of their own?

Or what if they have the capacity to support but they won’t?  That would bring us to another “don’t” aside from don’t blame. That is don’t expect. If we get support in the pursuit of our dreams and goals we should be thankful. If not, our fight goes on. It’s not the end of the world. We should always be ready to fight our battles alone.

And please, let’s not blame our parents also if we are not doing well in life. Let’s not accuse them of not paving the way for us and ensure that rolled in our paths to better lives  is a red carpet. Whatever kind of parents we have (or had) – good or bad – they ceased to be in control of us and our future the moment we became capable of deciding for ourselves. The question is, “What did we do when we sat in the driver’s seat of our lives?” Did we do everything we could to ensure that we succeed in our endeavors? Or did we expect that success is like the manna that fell from heaven which the Israelites in the Exodus just freely picked up?

Remember the narrative of Mr. Rohn? It did not end after he made a litany of the reasons why he was not succeeding and who and what should be blamed for that. Mr. Shoaff patiently listened to him and at the end said the following, “Mr. Rohn, the problem with your list is you ain’t on it!”

Before Mr. Rohn decided to work for Mr. Shoaff, he tore off his old blame list and replaced it with a new one where he wrote the only reason for not doing good in life – “ME.”

Now, let’s  review our personal blame lists? Are we included on it? Or we automatically assign fault to something or someone for the misfortunes and failures that befall us?

Something that we should understand and accept  is whatever we have become, wherever we are in the socio-economic pyramid, and whatever we have and don’t have,  are the results of all the decisions we made. Others may disagree but I believe that our destiny is the sum total of all our decisions and indecisions.

We disagree in our interpretation of destiny. Theists believe that whatever happens to us is the will of a supreme being. I also believe that God exists but I think that we chart our own destiny. He gave us the gift of volition so we could have the dignity to decide for ourselves.

So, if we are not succeeding in our endeavors, if we are not healthy, and if we are not happy, we only have ourselves to blame.

__________

*  Jim Rohn  was a successful American entrepreneur and motivational speaker and his net worth before his death, according to estimates, was $500 million.

Surviving The Workplace Jungle

I couldn’t agree more whenever people describe the workplace as  “a jungle.” I have been working long enough – thirty years in eight different institutions in two countries – that I could cite a thousand or two reasons why I consider that description accurate in the metaphorical sense. There are uncanny similarities in the behavior of people inhabiting the working environment and the animals in the forest. Even the patterns of relationships between people in the field of work resembles the way the living creatures in the wild treat each other. Thus, they say, in the workplace “only the fittest survive.”

I have been in this jungle called workplace for more than three decades now. Here I am, still standing and breathing. I managed to hold my own against the different animals I cross paths with as I searched for greener pastures and overflowing water holes. I experienced being stared down by a lion, stalked by an eagle, ambushed by a crocodile, bitten by a snake, clipped by a crab, and stung by a bee.  Attacks that left me scarred. Nevertheless, I survived. I am still alive… ready to fight or flee to live and fight another day.

How did I do it? How did I live to tell the tale?

I simply took a cue from Charles Darwin who theorized that “species with useful adaptations to the environment are more likely to survive.” Adaptation is the name of the game. That exactly is what I have been doing (and what you should also be doing if you intend to stay alive and sane in your workplace) – ADAPT.

If you wish not to be dinner for the predators it would behoove you  to study carefully the environment of the workplace where you belong. Know what kind of animals you are dealing with. Study them carefully. You also need to put your survival instincts into full gear.

Predators lurk in the shadows. It could be a big cat hiding in the bushes or   a mighty bird hovering above. These predators could be the “people upstairs” or somebody from among you “downstairs.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that all bosses who succeeded in their business endeavors  did it at the expense of the people in the rank and file – like predators slaying their preys and eat them. It could be just a few, or half, or most of them. Nobody knows for sure. But definitely not all. Perhaps a majority  of them (I hope) consider themselves rhinos and the people they hire oxpeckers whom they allow to freely land on their backs to feast on the insects pestering them.

The point I wish to drive at when I posited that they (the bosses) are predators is that they are at the top of the food chain and like it or not, when you agreed to work for them, you entered their territory. They dictate the terms and conditions of your employment. That doesn’t sound good but it’s the reality in the workplace.

The ones who own or manage the workplace are the alpha males. You need to have a full understanding of how they think and operate. Better if you could dig deeper and try to know what they like and dislike. If it is not too much for your dignity (or should we say EGO) to adapt to their whims and fancies then stay in the pack. These whims and fancies could be the policies that you consider disagreeable. You’ve got to make a choice whether to follow these policies or not. For not following, of course you are not naïve not to understand that there are consequences.  Following the terms and conditions of your employment is not equivalent to flopping onto your back to show that you submit to the alpha males. It is simply like the chimpanzees  presenting their backs, crouching, bowing and bobbing  in order to show deference to the alpha in their group.

If not, if you are tired of being an omega, if your ego clashes with that of the alpha, the wisest thing to do is leave. Find another pack, or better still, be a lone wolf. Don’t be employed. Establish your own business and be your own boss. If you succeed and your business grows big, hire people. That is your chance to be the alpha and see for yourself if you are a better one than your former bosses or… worse than them.

Believe me, you cannot afford to take too much bravado and think you are that brave “angry bird” who would tweet your disagreement  and not expect  dire consequences. Your chirps will not go unheard and before you know it the eagle will swoop down on your nest and tear you apart with its powerful beaks.

More often than not, or almost always, that locking horns with the “powers that be” in the workplace is like a deer thinking it could take on a full-gown lion.  It’s a losing proposition.

Of course not all bosses are saints. Some of them would take advantage of the people they hire in different ways. That you’d discover (hopefully) in time. So, why stay on a watering hole when you know that there are crocodiles under the mud waiting in ambush? Move out. You’re not a tree! You have limbs. Run, walk or crawl from out of there.

What about  the predators among you “downstairs”.

Wherever you work, you’ll encounter malevolent individuals. So, be careful. Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. These are co-workers who camouflage themselves as your friends but would stab you in the back when they have the chance.

Okay. Let’s talk more about the different animals in the workplace. You’ve got to be able to identify them if you really want to survive the wild called the workplace.

We have already mentioned about the big cats and the mighty birds. Yeah, including the wolves pretending to be sheep.

Are there other animals you ought to be wary of?

Yes, there are!

Watch out for them. Better watch them like a hawk.

Be careful of the buzzing bees called the rumormongers.

Thinking that they are your friends and therefore could be trusted, you share with them your darkest secrets. Letting the cat out of the bag is the biggest mistake you commit with this type of animals. Later you’ll just discover that the entire workplace is talking about the skeletons you’ve tried so hard to keep in your closet for so long.

Gossiping is a deadly disease in the workplace. It kills reputation and trust. It ruins relationships and careers.  So widespread it is that even the people who consider themselves as professionals and who think of themselves as decent individuals spread gossips – both personal and work-related – unmindful of the pain and shame their traitorous act might inflict on their victims.

Identify who among your co-workers are fond of tittle-tattling. Don’t say anything negative to them about the work, co-workers, much less personal matters. Just listen when they talk. Don’t fall into their trap. They will quote you without batting an eyelid. But here is the best way to deal with them –  avoid them like the plague. They sometimes appear as if they wouldn’t hurt a fly.  That’s their facade. The truth is – they are dogs that eat dogs. 

Among your co-workers, you should also be able to spot the crabs.

Why?

Do you know what happens when you put crabs in a bucket? They’ll try to escape by pulling back down others effectively preventing anyone of them from climbing out of the bucket.

That’s the origin of the proverbial “crab mentality.” The philosophy of the malevolent among your co-workers is “if they can’t have a promotion or an incentive, neither can you.” Some people in workplaces just don’t want to see their co-workers succeeding. They so hate it when somebody climbs up the ladder especially if they’ve been there longer. These are the snakes who would bite you with intrigues and gossips when they  see you work harder than they do. They would accuse you of being a leech trying to suck the attention and favor of the people upstairs.

Don’t allow the venom of the snakes get through your nerves. Let them not succeed in getting your goat. Continue to work as hard as your personal values would allow you. Don’t be pig-headed like them.

That’s just the reality in the workplace – that generally there are two types of workers – the ants and the termites.

And with who would you rather be associated – with the ants in the workplace who keep themselves busy working and helping one another in order to achieve the goals of the organization or with the termites, whose actions and pronouncements, deliberate or otherwise, are damaging – not only to the organization but more so to themselves?

They are basically a negative bunch that should be avoided at all cost. The termites hold a grudge against the people upstairs for one reason or another and they think that by not doing  their jobs the way they ought to and by behaving oddly, they could get even. They spin tales about the current state of the organization basically for the purpose of demotivating people. Be aware that the termites could also sow dissension among their co-workers.

Nonetheless, the people upstairs are not naïve. They could easily detect the existence of termites and they get them exterminated.

Watch out also for the parasites in the workplace.

The parasites seem to have special training in detecting generosity. Once they have spotted a kind-hearted co-worker who wouldn’t say no when asked for favors then they will have a field day.  They would ask you to solve their work-related problems and sometimes even seek personal favors.

So, be careful. Learn to say no when you have to or else they would eat up your time and resources. They won’t hesitate to abuse you.

It’s okay if they return the favor. The problem is the word “reciprocate” is not in their vocabulary.

They also tend to exhibit that selfish attribute in their work. You could neither expect them to walk an extra mile for the organization nor perform their duties and responsibilities as stipulated in their contracts. They care for nothing but their salaries.

For the workplace to prosper, the relationship between the people and the organization should be symbiotic.

Let’s consider the relationship between the clownfish and the sea anemone. It’s a perfect example of a symbiotic mutualistic relationship. While the fecal matter from the clownfish serve as nutrients for the sea anemone, the latter provide the former with protection from its predators.

You can choose between becoming a parasite or a clownfish.

The workplace gives you a venue for professional growth and a source of livelihood. You need to keep it afloat. Your organization needs your help for it to succeed and continue existence. You may have disagreements with the people upstairs but you need to bear in mind that commitment to job and organization is different from commitment to your employers.

Lastly, in order to survive in the forest, you need to clearly determine where you rank in the food chain. Identify the different kinds of animals there. And most importantly – don’t stand in the path of your predators.

It’s as simple as knowing your designated place in the organization, being mindful of your words and actions, and being careful with how you deal with everyone. And remember that the most foolish thing to do is to offend your employers.

You have to study the culture of the workplace. Again… ADAPT. Remember what Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest  species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

If you can’t adapt, if you feel so disrespected and gravely offended, if you think you are no longer growing professionally – what are you waiting for?  It’s time to migrate to another forest.

If you think that your current workplace is (as described by Simon Sinek) “like a tree full of monkeys where everyone at the top, looking down, sees only smiles but everyone at the bottom, looking up, sees only asses” then you should leave as soon as possible. Unless you could stomach looking at the same “asses” everyday when you go to work.

And when you’re finally out and begin looking for a new workplace, don’t ever expect that you’ll find a perfect workplace. That’s a wild goose chase. You’ll never find one. You’ll see the same animals.

On Self-doubt

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good
we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
– William Shakespeare

Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are referred to in Christian teachings as the “seven deadly sins.” These, to the Roman Catholics, are the cardinal sins. If a person commits any of them, he is believed to be cut off from God’s grace.

Actually, the Bible does not specifically mention the concept “seven deadly sins.” But in Galatians 5: 16-19,  fifteen acts of the sinful nature are identified – sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. Perhaps St. Gregory the Great, during his reign as Pope (590 – 640 AD), wanting to be concise,  shortened that long list of capital vices.

All Christian faithful are being called upon to not commit those acts of the flesh. St Paul said that believers are free but he implored them not to use their freedom to indulge the flesh. That, definitely, is easier said than done.

I think  St. Paul (who wrote the Galatians) and St. Gregory  may have overlooked another human frailty that should have been added to the list of sins. There exists another spiritual infirmity that I believe should be considered as equally harmful as any of the deadly sins. It’s called self-doubt.

My proposition (that self-doubt be classified also as sin) may not be considered seriously.  Many might even say it’s preposterous.

Is it?

Is self-doubt just an ordinary flaw in a person’s character? Is it really a bit too much to consider it a sin? Is it not a serious offense – something that when committed could ruin a person’s life?

Allow me to argue my assertion that self-doubt is a sin. For those who do not believe in the concept of religion, think of self-doubt not as a sin but an injury you inflict upon yourselves.

In this article, we will define self-doubt, strictly, as “the feeling of not having confidence in yourself or your abilities.”  The concept of doubt being discussed here does not refer to that philosophical function “to cast doubt.”

The definition above (the one before the disambiguation) makes self-doubt sound harmless – not something immoral or demonic that would make the moralists and bible scholars (both past and present) look at it as a sin. That’s probably the reason no religious movement, Christianity included, classified such human inadequacy as a sin. You might also refuse to accept that it is an injury you inflict upon yourself.

Self-doubt, however, is not as simple as it seems. This impotence of the human spirit has grave consequences not only to the person having it but  to the family where he belongs and to the society where he lives. A person plagued by it will be less-productive or not productive at all and is definitely not going to contribute anything to his family and society.

In arguing that self-doubt is a sin (or a self-inflicted injury) it is important to review the nature of sin from a philosophical standpoint.

“Sin is said to be a moral evil” (O’Neil, 1912). This brings us to another question – what is evil? St. Thomas defines the word (evil) as a privation of form or order or due measure. “Evil implies a deficiency in perfection.”

Self-doubt is clearly an imperfection. It indicates the absence of confidence which is considered essential for a person’s well-being and is a requirement in the pursuit of what Abraham Maslow refers to in Psychology as “self-actualization” or achieving one’s full potential. Sin is a diversion from the perceived ideal order of human living (Hyde, 2018). A person doubting his capabilities veers away from becoming the best that they can be and reduces their chance of living life to the fullest.

It could be argued that there are a lot of other negative human characters that may indicate imperfections. But none is as damaging to the person as self-doubt. Something is wrong with a person if he lacks confidence and has a very low (or  no) feeling of self-worth. These are conditions that  may lead to failure and unhappiness.

In addition, philosophical or moral sin is a human act not in agreement with rational nature and right reason. (Hyde, 2018).

It is not considered reasonable to doubt one’s capabilities. It is a person’s moral obligation to believe in themselves. It is not right to think one would fail even without really trying. A person needs to have faith not only in God (if he happens to believe in one) but also in themselves.

Allowing self-doubt to reign is depriving the self of discovering one’s potentials. When a person decides to doubt themselves, they eradicate their ability to fulfill their goals and to achieve their dreams.

Failures are indeed impossible not to happen. But even if one fails in several attempts to succeed they should decide not to stop trying. There’s a long list of famous personalities (like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford) who had their share of failures but  never gave up.

But is self-doubt a self-inflicted injury?

“Sin, also, wounds the nature of man.” This is what the Catholic teachings assert.

“Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body, and soul. It is one of the major obstacles to living the life that people truly deserve. This unhealthy food for the soul drags down a person’s spirit, crushes his ambitions, and prevents him from achieving all that he can (Thalk, 2013).

Doubt impedes a person’s development. It is the biggest roadblock to self-actualization. Self-doubt prevents people from becoming the best they could be, from realizing their full potentials, and from achieving their dreams. Shakespeare stressed, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Doubt could possibly kill more dreams than failure ever did.

Some degree of self-doubt is generally held to be normal. It can be helpful in some cases, as it often leads to introspection and enhanced performance. But it may require medical help when it becomes debilitating, affects daily function, or impedes performance at work or school (Self-doubt, n.d.).

There’s no immorality committed when one doubts himself. Why should it be then considered a sin?

This brings me to  the last among my arguments to convince you that self-doubt is a sin.

A sin may either be a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Sins of commission are sins we commit by doing something we shouldn’t do and sins of omission are sins we commit by not doing something (Sins of Commission vs Sins of Omission, 2015). The seven deadly sins are all sins of commission except sloth.

Sloth –   extreme laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents –  is considered a sin of omission. I think self-doubt belongs to that category. If sloth made it to the list of the deadly sins, self-doubt should be there also.

“Self-doubt,” is just as  damaging (perhaps more damaging) to a person than this sin called “sloth.”  Actually, in some instances, a person’s failure to use his innate talents starts with his inability to believe what he is capable of doing.

I hope that the arguments I presented above about self-doubt are convincing enough that from this point on you would move as far away from it as possible.

Conquer your self-doubt and start to nurture self-belief which I think is the key component of the value system of the few men and women who scaled the heights of success.


Welcome, singular “they”

References:

Hyde, J. (2018). The book of sin: How to Save the World, UK: Soul Rocks Books

O’Neil, A.C. (1912). Sin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 24, 2020 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm

Self-Doubt (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gootherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-doubt/

Sins of commission vs sins of omission (2015) Retrieved from https://www.revelation.co/2015/07/21/sins-of-commission-vs-sins-of omission/

Thalk, C. (2013). Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body and soul. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/self-doubt_b_2960936

%d bloggers like this: