My Review of Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’

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Is it a tale of adventure? Or should we just call it an original story of passion and goal pursuit? The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho is, in my opinion a gripping blend of the two. Written in 1988, it is a story of an Andalusian boy who dared to follow his heart when everybody in his society would rather play safe and be like everyone else.

…he had attended a seminary until he was sixteen. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family… But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family,  he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn’t want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel.

It is a thought-provoking story of Santiago’s physical journey from Spain to Africa, as well as his spiritual journey where he discovers the universal language.
The author introduces the concept destiny pursuit and completion of a Personal Legend as the golden thread woven into the engaging storyline. We discover within the story that achieving ones goals is the key to living a successful and satisfying life as perfection comes from finding your treasure (destiny). Santiago eventually realizes this truth after first avoiding the distraction of personal wealth gained through working with a crystal merchant, and the distraction of love found in the unexpected encounter with the beautiful Fatima. While on this journey, he receives assistance from an Alchemist. While traveling across the Sahara, the Alchemist helps Santiago better understand his quest for completing his Personal Legend. In the concluding section of the book, it is revealed to the reader that the life lessons Santiago learned while on his quest to complete his Personal Legend were just as important as the actual treasure he finds upon returning to his Spanish town. During his journey to find the treasure, Santiago is also educated regarding the oneness of nature.

Constantly in the story we are reminded of concepts such as ‘omens’, ‘beginner’s luck’, and maktub. Santiago learns from the wiseman (Melchizedek) that universe helps guides one towards achieving their dreams:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This is realized through reading the omens, but again we’re reminded to rely on our intuitions to guide us as Santiago hardly only uses the stones Urim and Thummin to help him read the omens. Intuition here is referred to as the Universal Language. The Universal Language is an individual’s ability to interact with nature as a whole, and also one’s self. It is the medium of communication that connects man to ‘infinite intelligence’.

The ‘Beginner’s luck’ is the idea that at first everything goes in ones favour, a sign that the universe is conspiring with you to help you achieve your goals:

“That’s the way it always is,” said the old man. “It’s called the principle of favourability. When you play cards the first time, you are almost sure to win. Beginner’s luck.”

‘Maktub’ an Arabic word that means ‘it is written’.

“It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

A reminder to anyone in pursuit of success that everything happens for a reason and every occurrence has a significance and it is certainly part of the journey to destiny.

The central message in ‘The Alchemist’ is that everything; our hopes, dreams, aspirations, events and occurrences in favour or against us might mean that the universe is out there tickling our minds, if only we would listen. It also might mean that the universe has these ideas etched into the unified field, and if we tickle the universe we might be able to scratch off some life-changing thoughts and ideas. People who have discovered their life purpose and mission seem to be able to access ideas from a unified field of sorts. Some people “listen” to these ideas and they change the quality of life on our planet.

Santiago finds his treasure back home in Andalusia but would not have discovered where it lies, if he had not travelled. The journey is always as important as the destination.

The book was translated from Portuguese to English, I know that translation affects the quality of writing, but I could not get into his writing style. At all. I felt like it was totally affected and contrived. He was going for this “fable/parable” style, but it seemed to fail miserably. The parable-like quality was totally contrived, but, it is, after all, a good book.

Talking so people listen, and Listening so people Talk

The ability to communicate with yourself persuasively and others is very important to success in life (career, business, relationships etc). Communicating with yourself means having the ability to live within your values and principles, having experiences that bring you fulfilment and happiness. Most people never think of talking to themselves as being part of a success journey, and that is often the very reason people are unable to achieve what they want to in life.

It would be really nice if we could just talk to people and have them open up, but we don’t and they don’t either. Instead, the process of getting through to people by talking is more reminiscent of the onion. You peel off one layer  after another until you come to the core, the centre. Each layer is attached to the next at one point on the onion. Each layer is separate but attached at one end of the sphere. People have a  number of levels or  layers of experience.  Each layer of experience has its own unique  qualities that demand a specific kind of communication to gain acceptance by the person. Then as acceptance is offered, you can go to the next layer, until you reach the  centre where most people only themselves and many have never  experienced at all. This is the self. This is you, and you’re pretty protective of “you”, aren’t you? Almost everyone is protective of their self, and that is one  reason communication is so difficult at times! Make the effort to communicate with other people on levels and layers, you cannot proceed to each succeeding         layer or level of communication without having established trust and intimacy on  the proceeding level. This single  fact is the cause of the majority of all breakdowns in talking and listening to people. Learn to  meet  people where they are in life, help them to be comfortable and at ease with you, only then will they be able to open up to you.

Talking so people listen is about experiencing something quite extraordinary. Each day we live in this life despite the challenges, setbacks and heartbreaks we encounter in day-to-day life. Throughout all the challenges that life has for us,  we  have the ability to communicate with those around us  to experience happiness. We  can  share our thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and desires. The ability to communicate is really incredibly amazing. It is through our ability to communicate that we are  able to  touch the hearts and  minds around us…and everywhere.

Stop for a moment and take a look at your life. Have you begun to achieve that which you set out to do? Have you begun to make a real difference in the world? Are you happy with what you a accomplished?  Do you have the income and lifestyle you deserve?

It is  up to you to live the life  you chose  to  live or relentless drift of events will make the decision for you. connect with yourself and others, in order to fully experience life we must become very much in touch with our true self and with the true selves of others.

Each communication you participate in is another wonderful opportunity to build up the self esteem of another person.

Have you ever met someone (or many people) with whom you immediately connected? Have you ever said, “He/she is really something. I’d like to get to know him/her”? At some level, you recognized something very charismatic about that person. Sometimes he or she recognized that same something in you, but then over time, or maybe immediately, nothing happened and you went your separate ways. That is because connecting with people is more than just physical attraction, though to be sure that is important and very real. Connecting with people really is when one person sees another and recognizes a kindred spirit. It’s virtually impossible to achieve true greatness as a lover, a teacher, or a salesperson without getting along with other people. In business,  the ability to  get along with others  is something that corporate executives pay a great deal of money for! Today, at the dawn of the millennium, corporations spend billions of dollars a year to enhance communication skills of their employees. No one can get along with everyone, but those who can build rapport with the majority will always be more successful on average than others.

Connecting with people is a naturally given talent that has been made weaker  through negative experiences. Much of what happens to us in our life time hardens the heart and weakens the spirit. Connecting with others has become a little complicated and requires patience and conscious effort to do so. Here is one conscious effort you should make; as you walk through and experience life each day, you will  come in contact with many people. Look at each person you talk with or make eye contact with and allow them freedom to be  whoever they want to be with you. Give them the security of knowing they can be open with you. You will not judge them. Finally, allow them to be interconnected with you and be separate from you. 

How do we accomplish such a monumental task of helping people feel secure, free, and happy? We all are different. Different things seems to make people feel secure, for example; we have so  many different needs, desires, and interests. It’s not easy knowing what will make a person feel more free and at  ease. In fact, we often don’t know what to say when we are in the presence of groups of strangers, so we tend to simply look at the ground and avoid eye contact as we pass by. What specifically do we need to do to generate this love, this happiness, this sense of security with other people? Even when we know people, it is remarkably difficult to talk to them about certain issues and topics that are most important to us.

How do we talk about religion with relatives? How do we  talk politics with our friends? How do we communicate with those we love in an honest way and  STILL keep the relationship intact? It isn’t easy but it can be done. 

To be continued in the next article.

AFRICAN SISTAH

Africa! “a continent carved out of glory, decked with bronze, embedded with gold, crowned with ivory. A land of bounteous harvest: where the rain wets, and the sunshine nurtures what we sow, the land of lands, the mother of the lands”, Africa the land of the African Sister.

Africa has the most beautiful women in the world today, women with an outstanding kind of beauty. Beauty from within, beauty on the outside, facial beauty, amazing body, the African woman has it all. The whole world stands in awe at the appearance of the African woman.

African women have been outstanding over the years, they have fought so hard to be accepted in the society, past and present, but in the struggle they have lost something called ‘authenticity’. 

One of the challenges that African women struggle with today is the loss of originality. Most of them have lost those virtues that makes them unique, most African sisters have failed to understand that beauty is not acquired at a make-up counter, it lies inward. Family values, morals, self-respect and self-worth are no longer guiding principles.

In a modern society that demands conformity, the African woman is losing her true self, her beauty is fading (literally). The use of fade creams to lighten (bleach) their skin is one of the many results of the loss of identity.

Among African countries, lightening  products are most popular in Nigeria – according to a report, over 75% of Nigerian women use them. Following Nigeria is Togo with 59%. South Africa with 35%, and Mali with 25%. The global concept in the 21st century tends to be dominated by Eurocentric standards which includes having a fair complexion.

Many ladies now have uncharacteristically light skin faces while the rest of their bodies are darker. Some even have scabby burns on their cheeks from the harmful chemicals used to strip the skin of pigmentation.

Local Dermatologists say they are seeing more patients whose skin  has been damaged by years of bleaching – most of the time irreversibly.

Psychologists say there are underlying reasons why people bleach their skin –  but low self-esteem and, to some degree self-hate, are a common thread. Africa has become a continent where black no longer means beautiful.

Dear African sister, there is absolutely nothing wrong in looking radiantly beautiful, but true beauty emanates when you begin to enjoy and celebrate the unique person you are and love the skin you are in!

The ‘OPEN-MINDEDNESS’ Nonsense

Boss & Apprentice


There is a dangerous little catchphrase that asks you to keep an open-mind.

This blog-post comes straight from my gut and is the subject of a recent discussion. It’s a subject near, and dear, to my heart only in that it makes me chuckle whenever I see someone proudly bandy the concept about. 

Repeatedly, in the discussion, I was asked to keep an open-mind, a call to me to disregard whatever contrary opinion, views and even personal experiences I may have and accept another.

That term is an anti-concept. It is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but often it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything.

We may find that a person is talking foolish nonsense (deliberately being closed-minded [irrational]) and our open mindedness does not demand that we continue to take him seriously.

‘Open-minded’ is a redundant word, consistently used by people who are the exact opposite of its supposed meaning. “You’re not open-minded. You’re closed-minded to logic and evidence” they even dismiss whatever you say as invalid, silly, pointless and wrap it up by calling you ignorant. But the use of these very words makes hypocrites of people who claim to be open-minded.

There is no open-mindedness. There is only rationality. Without rationality, open-mindedness let’s in both truths and falsehoods. Without rationality, close-mindedness keeps out dangerous lies  as well as useful, life-changing, life-saving  ideas. Rationality is the semi-permeable membrane of your mind.

Conversely, calling out someone as close-minded is generally a means of asserting that “I don’t like the fact that you’re proving me wrong, so I’ll pretend that your failure to agree with me is an ideological or philosophical defficiency” hence the use of the words ‘invalid’, ‘ignorant’. 

Being open-minded means granting plausibility to anything while being rational means being objective and an accepting any argument presented with credible evidence.

If you’re reading this article with an open-mind then there is no argument. Even the feature image has nothing to do with the subject matter, but, keep an ‘open-mind’.

Peace.

The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them)

One of the hardest things in life is to know when to keep going and when to move on.On the one hand, perseverance and grit are key to achieving success in any field. Anyone who masters their craft will face moments of doubt and somehow find the inner resolve to keep going. If you want to build a successful business or create a great marriage or learn a new skill then “sticking with it” is perhaps the most critical trait to possess.
On the other hand, telling someone to never give up is terrible advice. Successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, smart people don’t repeat it endlessly. They revise. They adjust. They pivot. They quit. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
Life requires both strategies. Sometimes you need to display unwavering confidence and double down on your efforts. Sometimes you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new. The key question is: how do you know when to give up and when to stick with it?
One way to answer this question is to use a framework I call the 3 Stages of Failure.
The 3 Stages of Failure
Stage 1 is a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.

Stage 2 is a Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen.

Stage 3 is a Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.

In the rest of this article, I’ll share a story, solution, and summary for each stage of failure. My hope is that the 3 Stages of Failure will help you navigate the tricky decision of deciding when to quit and when to stick with it. It’s not perfect, but I hope you find it to be useful.

Stage 1: A Failure of Tactics
Sam Carpenter became a small business owner in 1984. Using $5,000 as a down payment, he purchased a struggling business in Bend, Oregon and renamed it Centratel.

Centratel provided 24/7 telephone answering service for doctors, veterinarians, and other businesses that needed the phones to be answered at all hours, but couldn’t afford to pay a staff member to sit at the desk constantly. When he bought the business, Carpenter hoped that Centratel “would someday be the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States.” 

Things did not go as expected. In a 2012 interview, Carpenter described his first decade and a half of entrepreneurship by saying,

“I was literally working 80 to 100 hours a week for 15 years. I was a single parent of two kids, believe it or not. I was very sick. I was on all kinds of antidepressants and so forth…

I was going to miss a payroll and lose my entire company. If you can just imagine a nervous wreck, physical wreck, and then multiply that by ten, that’s what I was. It was a horrible time.”

One night, just before he was about to miss payroll, Carpenter had a realization. His business was struggling because it completely lacked the systems it needed to achieve optimal performance. In Carpenter’s words, “We were having all kinds of problems because everybody was doing it the way that they thought was best.”

Carpenter reasoned that if he could perfect his systems, then his staff could spend each day following best practices instead of constantly putting out fires. He immediately began writing down every process within the business.

“For instance,” he said. “We have a nine-step procedure for answering the phone at the front desk. Everybody does it that way, it’s 100% the best way to do it, and we’ve taken an organic system and made it mechanical, and made it perfect.” 
Over the next two years, Carpenter recorded and revised every process in the company. How to make a sales presentation. How to deposit a check. How to pay client invoices. How to process payroll. He created a manual that any employee could pick up and follow for any procedure within the company—system by system, step by step.
What happened?

Carpenter’s workweek rapidly decreased from 100 hours per week to less than 10 hours per week. He was no longer needed to handle every emergency because there was a procedure to guide employees in each situation. As the quality of their work improved, Centratel raised their prices and the company’s profit margin exploded to 40 percent.

Today, Centratel has grown to nearly 60 employees and recently celebrated its 30th year in business. Carpenter now works just two hours per week.

Fixing a Failure of Tactics
A Failure of Tactics is a HOW problem. In Centratel’s case, they had a clear vision (to be “the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States”) and a good strategy (the market for telephone answering services was large), but they didn’t know how to execute their strategy and vision.

There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Tactics.
Record your process.
Measure your outcomes.

Review and adjust your tactics.

Record your process. McDonald’s has more than 35,000 locations worldwide. Why can they plug-and-play new employees while still delivering a consistent product? Because they have killer systems in place for every process. Whether you’re running a business, parenting a family, or managing your own life, building great systems is crucial for repeated success. It all starts with writing down each specific step of the process and developing a checklist you can follow when life gets crazy.

Measure your outcomes. If something is important to you, measure it. If you’re an entrepreneur, measure how many sales calls you make each day. If you’re a writer, measure how frequently you publish a new article. If you’re a weightlifter, measure how often you train. If you never measure your results, how will you know which tactics are working? 
Review and adjust your tactics. The fatiguing thing about Stage 1 failures is that they never stop. Tactics that used to work will become obsolete. Tactics that were a bad idea previously might be a good idea now. You need to be constantly reviewing and improving how you do your work. Successful people routinely give up on tactics that don’t move their strategy and vision forward. Fixing a Failure of Tactics is not a one time job, it is a lifestyle.
Stage 2: A Failure of Strategy
It was March of 1999. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, had just announced that his company would launch a new service called Amazon Auctions to help people sell “virtually anything online.” The idea was to create something that could compete with eBay. Bezos knew there were millions of people with goods to sell and he wanted Amazon to be the place where those transactions happened. 

Greg Linden, a software engineer for Amazon at the time, recalled the project by saying, “Behind the scenes, this was a herculean effort. People from around the company were pulled off their projects. The entire Auctions site, with all the features of eBay and more, was built from scratch. It was designed, architected, developed, tested, and launched in under three months.” 

Amazon Auctions was a spectacular failure. Just six months after launch, management realized the project was going nowhere. In September 1999, they scrambled to release a new offering called Amazon zShops. This version of the idea allowed anyone from big companies to individuals to set up an online shop and sell goods through Amazon.

Again, Amazon swung and missed. Neither Amazon Auctions nor Amazon zShops are running today. In December 2014, Bezos referred to the failed projects by saying, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally billions.” 
Undaunted, Amazon tried yet again to create a platform for third-party sellers. In November 2000, they launched Amazon Marketplace, which allowed individuals to sell used products alongside Amazon’s new items. For example, a small bookstore could list their used textbooks directly alongside new ones from Amazon. 
It worked. Marketplace was a runaway success. In 2015, Amazon Marketplace accounted for nearly 50 percent of the $107 billion in sales on Amazon.com. 
Fixing a Failure of Strategy
A Failure of Strategy is a WHAT problem. By 1999, Amazon had a clear vision to “be earth’s most customer centric company.” They were also masters of getting things done, which is why they were able to roll Amazon Auctions out in just three months. The why and how were handled, but the what was unknown.
There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Strategy.

Launch it quickly.

Do it cheaply.

Revise it rapidly.

Launch it quickly. Some ideas work much better than others, but nobody really knows which ideas work until you try them. Nobody knows ahead of time—not venture capitalists, not the intelligent folks at Amazon, not your friends or family members. All of the planning and research and design is just pretext. I love Paul Graham’s take on this: “You haven’t really started working on [your idea] till you’ve launched.”

Because of this, it is critical to launch strategies quickly. The faster you test a strategy in the real world, the faster you get feedback on whether or not it works. Note the timeline Amazon operated on: Amazon Auctions was released in March 1999. Amazon zShops was released in September 1999. Amazon Marketplace was released in November 2000. Three huge attempts within 20 months.

Do it cheaply. Assuming you have achieved some minimum level of quality, it is best to test new strategies cheaply. Failing cheaply increases your surface area for success because it means that you can test more ideas. Additionally, doing things cheaply serves another crucial purpose. It reduces your attachment to a particular idea. If you invest a lot of time and money into a particular strategy, it will be hard to give it up on that strategy. The more energy you put into something, the more ownership you feel toward it. Bad business ideas, toxic relationships, and destructive habits of all kinds can be hard to let go once they become part of your identity. Testing new strategies cheaply avoids these pitfalls and increases the likelihood that you will follow the strategy that works best rather than the one you have invested in the most.

Revise it rapidly. Strategies are meant to be revised and adjusted. You’d be hard pressed to find a successful entrepreneur, artist, or creator who is doing exactly the same thing today as when they started. Starbucks sold coffee supplies and espresso machines for over a decade before opening their own stores. 37 Signals started as a web design firm before pivoting into a software company that is worth over $100M today. Nintendo made playing cards and vacuum cleaners before it stole the hearts of video game lovers everywhere. 

Too many entrepreneurs think if their first business idea is a failure, they aren’t cut out for it. Too many artists assume that if their early work doesn’t get praised, they don’t have the skill required. Too many people believe if their first two or three relationships are bad, they will never find love.

Imagine if the forces of nature worked that way. What if Mother Nature only gave herself one shot at creating life? We’d all just be single-celled organisms. Thankfully, that’s not how evolution works. For millions of years, life has been adapting, evolving, revising, and iterating until it has reached the diverse and varied species that inhabit our planet today. It is not the natural course of things to figure it all out on the first try.

So if your original idea is a failure and you feel like you’re constantly revising and adjusting, cut yourself a break. Changing your strategy is normal. It is literally the way the world works. You have to stay on the bus.

Stage 3: A Failure of Vision

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Massachusetts in 1803. His father was a minister in the Unitarian Church, which was a relatively popular branch of Christianity at the time.

Like his father, Emerson attended Harvard and became an ordained pastor. Unlike his father, he found himself disagreeing with many of the church’s teachings after a few years on the inside. Emerson debated heavily with church leaders before eventually writing, “This mode of commemorating Christ is not suitable to me. That is reason enough why I should abandon it.” 

Emerson resigned from the church in 1832 and spent the following year traveling throughout Europe. The travels sparked his imagination and led to friendships with contemporary philosophers and writers such as John Stuart Mill, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. It was later written that his travels to Paris sparked “a moment of almost visionary intensity that pointed him away from theology and toward science.” 

Upon returning to the United States, Emerson founded the Transcendental Club, which was a group of New England intellectuals like himself who wanted to talk about philosophy, culture, science, and improving American society.

Emerson’s deep questioning of his life and values, which began with his work as a pastor, intensified during his international travels, and continued with his Transcendental Club meetings helped him realize the desire to become a philosopher and writer. He spent the rest of his years pursuing independent ideas and writing essays and books that are still valued today.

Fixing a Failure of Vision

A Failure of Vision is a WHY problem. They happen because your vision or goal for what you want to become (your why) doesn’t align with the actions you are taking.

There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Vision.
Take stock of your life.
Determine your non-negotiable.

Navigate criticism.

Take stock of your life. People rarely take the time to think critically about their vision and values. Of course, there is no requirement that says you must to develop a personal vision for your work or your life. Many people prefer to go-with-the-flow and take life as it comes. In theory, that’s just fine. But in practice, there is a problem:

If you never decide on a vision for your life, you’ll often find yourself living someone else’s dream.

Like many children, Emerson followed the path of his father to the same school and the same profession before opening his eyes and realizing it wasn’t what he wanted. Adopting someone else’s vision as your own—whether it be from family, friends, celebrities, your boss, or society as a whole—is unlikely to lead to your personal dream. Your identity and your habits need to be aligned.
Because of this, you need to take stock of your life. What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to spend your days? It is not someone else’s job to figure out the vision for your life. That can only be done by you. My suggestion is to start by exploring your core values. Then, review your recent experiences by writing an Annual Review or doing an Integrity Report. 
Determine your non-negotiable. Your “non-negotiable” is the one thing you are not willing to budge on, no matter what. One common mistake is to make the non-negotiable your strategy, when it should be your vision. It’s very easy to get fixated on your idea. But if you’re going to get obsessed with something, get obsessed with your vision, not your idea. Be firm on the vision, not on this particular version of your idea. Jeff Bezos has said, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” 
The key is to realize that nearly everything is a detail—your tactics, your strategy, even your business model. If your non-negotiable is to be a successful entrepreneur, then there are many ways to achieve that vision. If Amazon’s non-negotiable is to “be earth’s most customer centric company,” they can lose billions on Amazon Auctions and Amazon zShops and still reach their goal.
Once you are confident in your vision, it is rare to lose it in one fell swoop. There are so few mistakes that lead to the complete annihilation of a dream. More likely, you failed at a strategy level and felt demoralized. This crippled your enthusiasm and you gave up not because you should, but because you felt like it. Your emotions caused you to turn a Stage 1 or Stage 2 failure into a Stage 3 failure. Most of the mistakes that people assume are Failures of Vision are actually Failures of Strategy. Many entrepreneurs, artists, and creators get hung up on a particular version of their idea and when the idea fails they give up on the vision as well. Don’t develop a sense of ownership over the wrong thing. There are nearly infinite ways to achieve your vision if you are willing to be flexible on the details.
Navigate criticism. Criticism can be an indicator of failed strategies and tactics, but—assuming you’re a reasonable person with good intentions—it is rarely an indicator of a failed vision. If you are committed to making your vision a non-negotiable factor in your life and not giving up on the first try, then you have to be willing to navigate criticism. You don’t need to apologize for the things you love, but you do have to learn how to deal with haters.
The 4th Stage of Failure
There is a 4th stage of failure that we haven’t talked about: Failures of Opportunity.

These are WHO mistakes. They occur when society fails to provide equal opportunity for all people. Failures of Opportunity are the result of many complex factors: age, race, gender, income, education, and more.

For example, there are thousands of men my age living in the slums of India or the streets of Bangladesh who are more intelligent and more talented than I am, but we live very different lives largely because of the opportunities presented to us.
Failures of Opportunity deserve an article of their own and there are many things we can do as individuals and as a society to reduce them. However, I chose not to focus on them here because Failures of Opportunity are difficult to influence. Meanwhile, your vision, your strategy, and your tactics are all things you can directly control.
A Final Note on Failure

Hopefully, the 3 Stages of Failure has helped you clarify some of the issues you’re facing and how to deal with them. One thing that may not be apparent at first glance is how the different stages can impact one another.

For example, Failures of Tactics can occasionally create enough havoc that you mistakenly believe you have a Failure of Vision. Imagine how Sam Carpenter felt when he was working 100 hours per week. It would have been easy to assume that his vision of being an entrepreneur was the failure when, in fact, it was merely poor tactics causing the problem.
Sometimes you need a few tactics to create enough whitespace to figure out your strategy or vision. This is why I write about things like how to manage your daily routine and how to figure out your priorities and why multitasking is a myth. No, these topics aren’t going to create a world-changing vision by themselves. But they might clear enough space in your calendar for you to dream up a world-changing vision.
In other words, you might not be walking the wrong path after all. It’s just that there is so much dust swirling around you that you can’t see the path. Figure out the right tactics and strategy—clear the dust from the air—and you’ll find that the vision often reveals itself.

Quotes from ‘On the Road’

My favourite quotes from On The Road  By Jack Kerouac.

On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America.
Like most legends, the story of the whirlwind composition of On the Road is part fact and part fiction. Kerouac did, in fact, write the novel on a single scroll in three weeks, but he had also spent several years making notes in preparation for this literary outburst. Kerouac termed this style of writing “spontaneous prose” and compared it to the improvisation of his beloved jazz musicians. Revision, he believed, was akin to lying and detracted from the ability of prose to capture the truth.

Quotes

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk–real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life”

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven.”

“This is the night, what it does to you, I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

“It made me think that everything was about to arrive–the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever.”

“we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“the car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives”

“we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

“the sight of his uneaten food made me sadder than anything in years. I shouldn’t have said that…he likes to eat so much…He’s never left his food like this…”

“‘Nothing in this lousy world is my fault, don’t you see that? I don’t want it to be and it can’t be and it won’t be.'”

“‘He’s mad,’ I said, ‘and yes, he’s my brother.'”

“‘Oh a girl like that scares me,’ I said. ‘I’d give up everything and throw myself on her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world.”

“It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul–which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road–calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened.”

“Her great dark eyes surveyed me with emptiness and a kind of chagrin that reached generations and generations in her blood from not having done what wascrying to be done–whatever it was, and everybody knows what it was. ‘What do you want out of life?’ I wanted to wring it out of her. She didn’t have the slightestidea what she wanted.”

“‘What is he aching to do? What are we all aching to do? What do we want?’ She didn’t know. She yawned. She was sleepy. It was too much. Nobody could tell. Nobody would ever tell. It was all over. She was eighteen and most lovely and lost.”

“All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks, the come and the gone were swept up in this pile. Had they taken me with it, Dean would never have seen me again. He would have had to roam the entire United States and look in every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me embryonically convulated among the rubbishes of my life, his life, and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned. What would I have said to him from my rubbish womb? ‘Don’t bother me, man, I’m happy where I am. You lost me one night in Detroit in  August nineteen forty-nine. What right have you to come and disturb my reverie in thispukish can?'”

“anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven?what’s earth? All in the mind.”

“‘What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road,any road. It’s anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?’ We nodded inthe rain.”

“and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time–how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know.’ We sighed in the rain.”

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actualnight, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.”

“Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.”

“‘Howd’y’do. My name is Dean Moriarty. Yes, I remember you well. Is everything all right? Well, well. Look at the lovely cake. Oh, can I have some? Just me?Miserable me?’ Ed’s sister said yes. ‘Oh, how wonderful. People are so nice. Cakes and pretty things set out on a table and all for the sake of wonderful little joys and delights. Hmm, ah, yes, excellent, splendid, harrumph, egad!'”

“He had no idea of the impression he was making and cared less. People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces. He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become”

“I had finally found the castle where the great snake of the world was about to rise up.”

“Here were the three of us–Dean looking for his father, mine dead, Stan fleeing from his old one, and going off into the night together.”

“Here we were, heading for unknown southern lands, and barely three miles out of hometown, poor old hometown of childhood, a strange feverish exotic bug rose from secret corruptions and sent fear into our hearts.”

“We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night!”

“On the horizon was the moon. She fattened, she grew huge and rusty, she mellowed and rolled, till the morning star contended and dews began to blow in our windows–and still we rolled.”

“‘Yes I heard what she said, I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It couldn’t be cooler, it couldn’t be grander, it couldn’t be anything .”

“As essential as rocks in the desert are they in the desert of ‘history.’ And theyknew this when we passed, ostensibly self-important moneybag Americans on a lark in their land; they knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment.”

“Life was dense, dark, ancient.”

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down   river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land thatrolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West coast, and all 

that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

As a Young man.

“I wish I knew then what I know now” was not the feeling  I had when I  thought of writing this article. Life is a tremendous experience if you view it as such, nothing happens as an accident or a mistake, its for a reason and its  all a lesson. Thirteen days back I celebrated my birthday, though in my earliest twenties along came with the realization that I am not as young as I used to be (ack!)  And some meditations on the life lessons I’ve learned so far (or not learned, as the case may be). As part of that process of introspection, I found myself wondering what I learnt and what I wish I had heard (and taken to heart) as a young boy, and how different my life would have been as a result.

I decided to try to write a letter to myself at the age of 15 – giving myself the advice I didn’t have the ears to hear 8 years ago. From that exercise, I came up with a list of things I learned, and I hope that it serves to help some young man in his path to manhood .

Life Advice to Myself as a Young Man

What other people think of you isn’t nearly as important as what you think of yourself. It’s common to seek the approval of others, which can lead you down the path of doing things just because they want you to. It isn’t so common to follow your heart and believe in yourself. Learn to love who you are, not who others would have you be. Rebelling against the status quo leads to burnout. Instead, boldly forge your own path. Many things about the world will make you angry. But unless you come up with an alternative, your energy is wasted in simply being against something. Find out what you stand for, deep inside, and instead of pushing back against the world, use your heart and mind to become an agent of positive change .

Real men do cry.

Forget that macho bullshit that you hear in the locker room, in the hostel or even with your friends. Learn to be comfortable with your feelings, no matter what they are. Some men cry from joy and some cry from pain, but sooner or later, we all do. Holding your feelings locked inside is not healthy, nor is it manly . Don’t be afraid to feel deeply and to express it to the world. Memorizing the answers isn’t as important as finding your own. Most schools teach us to memorize the answers and to spit them back out on demand. They don’t necessarily teach us to think for ourselves, and they don’t teach us what’s really important in life. This isn’t to say you should ignore your teachers and drop out of school, but it is imperative that you question everything and make your own decisions. Never stop learning –every day brings a new lesson, if you are open-minded and not too full of yourself.

Mind your own business.

Gossip and mean-spirited talk about others is a bad habit, and one which leads to small thinking. It’s all good fun until it’s about you, and then you’ll wonder how people could be so mean. Friends that spend their time talking down about others will talk about you sooner or later. Drop them and find positive ones. Let others live their lives as they see fit, and concentrate on living your own. Stick up for the weak and the small and the innocent.True strength lies in knowing where and when to show it. Picking on the small, the weak, and the less fortunate doesn’t take strength. Standing up for them does. Be a champion of the underdog, the young, the old, and those who are struggling. 

Having a girlfriend isn’t as important as having friends who are girls.

They sure are beautiful, and movies, music, and TV all tell us that we need to have a girl by our side to be whole. What they don’t tell you is that if you feel that way, you’ll always be looking for the next one, a ‘better’ one. If you really want to know about women, make friends with them, talk to them, and listen to them. You’ll learn more that way than you will from any Hollywood movie, and chances are, you’ll have a much richer relationship than one based on how she looks in short shorts.

Sex isn’t conquest.

Again, pop culture will lead you astray, especially when it comes to sex. You won’t be any more of a man if you sleep with lots of girls, but you will have a much bigger chance of getting one pregnant or picking up an STD along the way. Abstain and focus your energy on more productive pursuits, I am saying that you do need to consider that every girl is someone’s daughter or sister, and to respect them as you would your own sister. 

Anyone can imitate, but it takes a brave soul to think for himself. 

When watching the coolest kids in school, or the best jock, or the most popular guys, it’s tempting to want to be just like them. But if you were just like them, you wouldn’t be following your own true nature. It’s great to learn from others, but to simply imitate them is cheap and fake. Listen to yourself– to what values and dreams are important to you, and live your life in accordance with those, not someone else’s.

Winners do quit, no matter what the cliché is.

If your heart isn’t in it, then it doesn’t serve you to continue doing the things that people think you ought to do. And if you want to be the best photographer ever, you might have to quit the chess club or the Young Farmers Club, or whatever it is that is taking your time and attention away from photography. In fact, you might need to quit everything else. But that’s up to you and your dream. Don’t let anyone tell you that persevering through something you can’t stand is of a higher moral imperative than quitting. There’s value in pushing through the tough parts, but suffering for someone else will never be fulfilling or productive for you.

Making lots of money isn’t the point, but neither is it evil.

It would be wonderful if money solved everything, but all it takes is a quick look at a newspaper to see that those who ‘have everything’ also have whole worlds of trouble that you don’t. Don’t be a slave to money but also don’t let yourself stay poor out of a moral judgment. Strive to gain financial independence and make more and more if you can.

Follow your muse, even if it doesn’t seem practical to your family, friends, or teachers.

People will always try to tell you what you should do with your life, most of it based on what they want from you. Sometimes it’s based on what they wish they could have done, sometimes it’s based on what they did do, and sometimes they simply want to live vicariously through you. Most of the time it is out of love for you, so don’t be angry at them. But at the same time, remember that you’re the one who will have to live with those decisions, so if you are being pushed to go to school, and all you want to do is draw or paint, don’t let others decide for you. Not everyone needs to go to school. There are plenty of trade schools, apprenticeships, and alternative education experiences available to you – and college will always be there for you if you wish. If your heart tells you to play guitar and write music all day, then getting a degree in accounting isn’t going to be fulfilling to you. Listen to your heart.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Nobody really enjoys being laughed at by others (well, perhaps comedians or clowns do). However, learning to laugh at ourselves is an important skill to have. If we’re so hung up on always being right, or always winning, or always being ‘perfect’, we’ll miss out on a lot of experiences in life. Making mistakes is how we learn, and the more comfortable we are with failing, the less we are afraid to take chances. And the more chances we take, the more we’ll learn and grow.

Love who you are, not who you think you ought to be.

All of us are born with something special to share with the world. Don’t listen to those who would tell you otherwise. You count. You’re amazing. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t try to be someone else, and don’t try to be something for someone else. Follow your own counsel always, and trust your heart.

Above all, be honest.

Be honest to your friends, your enemies, your parents, and most importantly, to yourself. If you have the slightest hesitation about your actions or words, think twice. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you want to be proud of yourself and the choices you’ve made. That won’t be the case if you’re not brutally honest with yourself. A true man takes the consequences of his actions and doesn’t try to get out of them or pretend they didn’t happen. If you make a mistake, admit it and make it right. You’ll always have to answer to the man in the mirror, so do yourself a favor and do right the first time.

“We are either men or monkeys-and the choice usually lies with ourselves”

                                                                                                          Dale Carnegie

Life Lessons from Omar Khayyam

Some of Omar’s Rubaiyat warn us of the danger of Greatness, the instability of Fortune, and while advocating Charity to all Men, recommending us to be too intimate with none.”

Not so long ago (some three years back), in my search and longing for a deeper sense of self and true meaning, I stumbled upon the writings of a Persian poet, I learnt that the poetry of Persia often has two meanings, one inner and one outer. I remember the great satisfaction I derived from his explanations of the twofold significance of several Persian poems.

One day as I was deeply concentrated on the pages of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, I suddenly beheld the walls of its outer meanings. Ever since, I have admired the beauty of the previously invisible castle of inner wisdom in the Rubaiyat. I have felt that this dream-castle of truth, can be seen by any penetrating eye.

I’ve always admired the veiling of Khayyam’s metaphysical and practical philosophy.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam presents an interesting challenge to any reader trying to sort through its heavy symbolism and not-so-obvious theme. Not only does the poem provide us with a compelling surface story, but a second look at the text can reveal a rich collection of seperate meanings hidden in the poem’s objective descriptions and sprawling narrative-which in the space of a few pages includes such disparate characters as the Moon, God, the Snake (and his traditional Christian neighborhood, Paradise), the “Balm of Life”, not to mention nearly every animal and sexual symbol the human mind can come up with.

Obviously, on one level, the poem can present itself in a fairly straightforward manner in the vein of CARPE DIEM. In the third stanza, the author writes, “‘Open then the Door!/ You know how little while we have to stay,/ And, once departed, may return no more.” There’s several refrains to this throughout the poem, first in the seventh stanza: “Come, fill the cup. . ./ The Bird of Time has but a little way/ To flutter-and the bird is on the Wing.” The entire ninth stanza describes the summer month “that brings the Rose” taking “Jamshyd and Kaikobad away”, and so forth and so on ad nauseum. Again, in the fifty-third stanza: “You gaze To-Day, while You are You-how then/ Tomorrow, You when shall be You no more?” The poet seems to be in an incredible hurry to get this life going before some cosmic deadline comes due, and more than willing to encourage any of the laiety he encounters in the course of the poem to do the same.

Another recurring motif throughout the poem is the time-honored act of downing a few drinks. It appears that either “Wine”, the “Cup” or “Bowl”, and the “Grape” touch every stanza in the poem; the narrator seems to be an alcoholic. In the fifty-sixth stanza he dismisses everything so he can get drunk, having divorced Reason and married the Daughter of the Vine in the previous stanza: “Of all that one should care to fathom, I/ Was never deep in anything but-Wine.” Later the narrator compares the Grape to an angel. It’s clear this person has something of an obsession.

The Rubaiyat

By 

Omar Khayyam

Written 1120 A.C.E.

I

Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight

The Stars before him from the Field of Night,

Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes

The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

II

Before the phantom of False morning died,

Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,

“When all the Temple is prepared within,

Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?”

III

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before

The Tavern shouted–“Open then the Door!

You know how little while we have to stay,

And, once departed, may return no more.”

IV

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,

The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,

Where the White Hand Of Moses on the Bough

Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

V

Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose,

And Jamshyd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows;

But still a Ruby kindles in the Vine,

And many a Garden by the Water blows,

VI

And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine

High-piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!

Red Wine!”–the Nightingale cries to the Rose

That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.

VII

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,

Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

IX

Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say;

Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?

And this first Summer month that brings the Rose

Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

X

Well, let it take them! What have we to do

With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru?

Let Zal and Rustum bluster as they will,

Or Hatim call to Supper–heed not you

XI

With me along the strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,

Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot–

And Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne!

XII

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness–

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

XIII

Some for the Glories of This World; and some

Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;

Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,

Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

XIV

Look to the blowing Rose about us–“Lo,

Laughing,” she says, “into the world I blow,

At once the silken tassel of my Purse

Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”

XV

And those who husbanded the Golden grain,

And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,

Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d

As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

XVI

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes–or it prospers; and anon,

Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,

Lighting a little hour or two–is gone.

XVII

Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai

Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,

How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp

Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

XVIII

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep

The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:

And Bahram, that great Hunter–the Wild Ass

Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

XIX

I sometimes think that never blows so red

The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;

That every Hyacinth the Garden wears

Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.

X

And this reviving Herb whose tender Green

Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean–

Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows

From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

XXI

Ah, my Belov’ed fill the Cup that clears

To-day Past Regrets and Future Fears:

To-morrow!–Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

XXII

For some we loved, the loveliest and the best

That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,

Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,

And one by one crept silently to rest.

XXIII

And we, that now make merry in the Room

They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom

Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth

Descend–ourselves to make a Couch–for whom?

XXIV

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,

Before we too into the Dust descend;

Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie

Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!

XXV

Alike for those who for To-day prepare,

And those that after some To-morrow stare,

A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries

“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

XXVI

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d

Of the Two Worlds so wisely–they are thrust

Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn

Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVII

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument

About it and about: but evermore

Came out by the same door where in I went.

XXVIII

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;

And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–

“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

XXIX

Into this Universe, and Why not knowing

Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;

And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,

I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.

XXX

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?

And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!

Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine

Must drown the memory of that insolence!

XXXI

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate

rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate;

And many a Knot unravel’d by the Road;

But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

XXXII

There was the Door to which I found no Key;

There was the Veil through which I might not see:

Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee

There was–and then no more of Thee and Me.

XXXIII

Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn

In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;

Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs reveal’d

And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.

XXXIV

Then of the Thee in Me works behind

The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find

A Lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,

As from Without–“The Me Within Thee Blind!”

XXXV

Then to the lip of this poor earthen Urn

I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:

And Lip to Lip it murmur’d–“While you live

Drink!–for, once dead, you never shall return.”

XXXVI

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive

Articulation answer’d, once did live,

And drink; and Ah! the passive Lip I kiss’d,

How many Kisses might it take–and give!

XXXVII

For I remember stopping by the way

To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay:

And with its all-obliterated Tongue

It murmur’d–“Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”

XXXVIII

And has not such a Story from of Old

Down Man’s successive generations roll’d

Of such a clod of saturated Earth

Cast by the Maker into Human mould?

XXXIX

And not a drop that from our Cups we throw

For Earth to drink of, but may steal below

To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye

There hidden–far beneath, and long ago.

XL

As then the Tulip for her morning sup

Of Heav’nly Vintage from the soil looks up,

Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav’n

To Earth invert you–like an empty Cup.

XLI

Perplext no more with Human or Divine,

To-morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,

And lose your fingers in the tresses of

The Cypress–slender Minister of Wine.

XLII

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press

End in what All begins and ends in–Yes;

Think then you are To-day what Yesterday

You were–To-morrow You shall not be less.

XLIII

So when that Angel of the darker Drink

At last shall find you by the river-brink,

And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul

Forth to your Lips to quaff–you shall not shrink.

XLIV

Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,

And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,

Were’t not a Shame–were’t not a Shame for him

In this clay carcase crippled to abide?

XLV

‘Tis but a Tent where takes his one day’s rest

A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;

The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash

Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.

XLVI

And fear not lest Existence closing your

Account, and mine, should know the like no more;

The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour’d

Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.

XLVII

When You and I behind the Veil are past,

Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,

Which of our Coming and Departure heeds

As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.

XLVIII

A Moment’s Halt–a momentary taste

Of Being from the Well amid the Waste–

And Lo!–the phantom Caravan has reach’d

The Nothing it set out from–Oh, make haste!

XLIX

Would you that spangle of Existence spend

About the Secret–Quick about it, Friend!

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True–

And upon what, prithee, may life depend?

L

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;

Yes; and a single Alif were the clue–

Could you but find it–to the Treasure-house,

And peradventure to The Master too;

LI

Whose secret Presence, through Creation’s veins

Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;

Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and

They change and perish all–but He remains;

LII

A moment guess’d–then back behind the Fold

Immerst of Darkness round the Drama roll’d

Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,

He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.

LIII

But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor

Of Earth, and up to Heav’n’s unopening Door

You gaze To-day, while You are You–how then

To-morrow, You when shall be You no more?

LIV

Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit

Of This and That endeavour and dispute;

Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape

Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

LV

You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse

I made a Second Marriage in my house;

Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed

And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

LVI

For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line

And “Up” and “Down” by Logic I define,

Of all that one should care to fathom,

Was never deep in anything but–Wine.

LVII

Ah, but my Computations, People say,

Reduced the Year to better reckoning?–Nay

‘Twas only striking from the Calendar

Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday.

LVIII

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,

Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape

Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and

He bid me taste of it; and ’twas–the Grape!

LIX

The Grape that can with Logic absolute

The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:

The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice

Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute:

LX

The mighty Mahmud, Allah-breathing Lord

That all the misbelieving and black Horde

Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul

Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.

LXI

Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare

Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare?

A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?

And if a Curse–why, then, Who set it there?

LXII

I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must,

Scared by some After-reckoning ta’en on trust,

Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink,

To fill the Cup–when crumbled into Dust!

LXIII

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!

One thing at least is certain–This Life flies;

One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;

The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

LXIV

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who

Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through,

Not one returns to tell us of the Road,

Which to discover we must travel too.

LXV

The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d

Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d,

Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep,

They told their comrades, and to Sleep return’d.

LXVI

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,

Some letter of that After-life to spell:

And by and by my Soul return’d to me,

And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell:”

LXVII

Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,

And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,

Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,

So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.

LXVIII

We are no other than a moving row

Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go

Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held

In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

LXIX

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays

Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;

Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,

And one by one back in the Closet lays.

LXX

The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,

But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;

And He that toss’d you down into the Field,

He knows about it all–He knows–HE knows!

LXXI

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

LXXII

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,

Whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die,

Lift not your hands to It for help–for It

As impotently moves as you or I.

LXXIII

With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,

And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:

And the first Morning of Creation wrote

What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

LXXIV

Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare;

To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair:

Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:

Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

LXXV

I tell you this–When, started from the Goal,

Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal

Of Heav’n Parwin and Mushtari they flung

In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.

LXXVI

The Vine had struck a fibre: which about

If clings my being–let the Dervish flout;

Of my Base metal may be filed a Key,

That shall unlock the Door he howls without.

LXXVII

And this I know: whether the one True Light

Kindle to Love, or Wrath-consume me quite,

One Flash of It within the Tavern caught

Better than in the Temple lost outright.

LXXVIII

What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke

A conscious Something to resent the yoke

Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain

Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

LXXIX

What! from his helpless Creature be repaid

Pure Gold for what he lent him dross-allay’d–

Sue for a Debt he never did contract,

And cannot answer–Oh, the sorry trade!

LXXX

Oh, Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin

Beset the Road I was to wander in,

Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round

Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!

LXXXI

Oh, Thou who Man of baser Earth didst make,

And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man

Is blacken’d–Man’s forgiveness give–and take!

LXXXII

As under cover of departing Day

Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away,

Once more within the Potter’s house alone

I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

LXXXIII

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,

That stood along the floor and by the wall;

And some loquacious Vessels were; and some

Listen’d perhaps, but never talk’d at all.

LXXXIV

Said one among them–“Surely not in vain

My substance of the common Earth was ta’en

And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,

Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.”

LXXXV

Then said a Second–“Ne’er a peevish Boy

Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy,

And He that with his hand the Vessel made

Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”

LXXXVI

After a momentary silence spake

Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;

“They sneer at me for leaning all awry:

What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

LXXXVII

Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot–

I think a Sufi pipkin-waxing hot–

“All this of Pot and Potter–Tell me then,

Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

LXXXVIII

“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell

Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell

The luckless Pots he marr’d in making–Pish!

He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well.”

LXXXIX

“Well,” Murmur’d one, “Let whoso make or buy,

My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:

But fill me with the old familiar juice,

Methinks I might recover by and by.”

XC

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,

The little Moon look’d in that all were seeking:

And then they jogg’d each other, “Brother! Brother!

Now for the Porter’s shoulder-knot a-creaking!”

XCI

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,

And wash the Body whence the Life has died,

And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,

By some not unfrequented Garden-side.

XCII

That ev’n my buried Ashes such a snare

Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air

As not a True-believer passing by

But shall be overtaken unaware.

XCIII

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long

Have done my credit in this World much wrong:

Have drown’d my Glory in a shallow Cup

And sold my Reputation for a Song.

XCIV

Indeed, indeed, Repentance of before

I swore–but was I sober when I swore?

And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand

My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

XCV

And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,

And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour–Well,

I wonder often what the Vintners buy

One half so precious as the stuff they sell.

XCVI

Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!

That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!

The Nightingale that in the branches sang,

Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

XCVII

Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield

One glimpse–if dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d,

To which the fainting Traveller might spring,

As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

XCVIII

Would but some wing’ed Angel ere too late

Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,

And make the stern Recorder otherwise

Enregister, or quite obliterate!

XCIX

Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits–and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

C

Yon rising Moon that looks for us again–

How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;

How oft hereafter rising look for us

Through this same Garden–and for one in vain!

CI

And when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass

Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,

And in your joyous errand reach the spot

Where I made One–turn down an empty Glass!

THE END

Paths Without Obstacles don’t Lead Anywhere Important

People often find that the only constants in life are problems. Obstacles are 
to be dreaded, leading only to stress, anxiety and self-doubt. At least, that’s 

what we’ve been conditioned to think. 

“What is the differnence between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our 

attitude towards it. Every opportunity has a difficulty and every 

difficulty has an opportunity” 

                                                                        J. Sidlow Baxter

Simply put, the struggles we face offer us path to growth and success. It is a 

counter-intuitive concept to be sure, but it is perhaps the single most 

important concept that any individual looking to progress can learn: how to 

embrace challenges.

Every single problem we have ever encountered that looked like a set back 

would have been an opportunity if it was seen as such. Problems/obstacles 

and opportunities are just difficulties seen with different mindsets.

A New World Order: China’s Rise to Power

Talks of a new world order has been going on for a while, though the term has been subject to various interpretations, it primarily refers to a period of dramatic change in world political thought  and balance of power. The United States still remains the world power but with the rise of “the rest,” particularly China, the present structure of the world order will eventually be reconfigured.

The term world power is a more contemporary term for great power. The processes of globalization that characterize the present century means that ‘great’ power needs more than nuclear super power capability. Indeed, it needs to broaden out to more traditional great power attributes of maintaining sufficient diplomatic, economic, and military resources for preserving international order in which world powers presume themselves to be the main actors. A world power needs to promote international order, posses formidable military capability, and must attain transnational competencies that permit interaction with non-state actors, regional forums and the instruments and institutions of global governance.

As a member of the United Nations (UN) security council, the People’s Republic of China belongs to the elite club of recognized world powers. It is involved in more than 1000 international government organisations that deal with issues ranging from drug trafficking to the environment; it is an ardent supporter  of the United Nations and International Law.

China is expanding its foothold further into Asia, the Middle-East, Australia and especially Africa. Chinese engagement in Africa is primarily concerned with natural resource extraction, infrastructure development, and manufacturing. U.S engagement, in contrast, concentrates on higher-technology trades and services, as well as on aid policies aimed at promoting democracy, good governance, and human development. While the United States and China may not be strategic rivals in Africa, the two countries could inreasingly  compete commercially if American businesses become more engaged in African Markets.

China has rapidly ascended the economic ladder and it is now the world’s second largest. With no. 1 shrinking, the International Monetary Fund says that in this year 2016, China will be the world’s largest economy. They have well over 1 Terawatt of generation and are planning to be at 2 TWs by mid-century, fuelled by at least 400 nuclear reactors, 200 gas plants, 400GW of hydro and more renewables than everyone else.

China now has the largest manufacturing base in the world, including super large forges. China is only the third country to put a man in space and to fly a spacecraft around the moon. China is planning an orbiting space station, and will soon land a robotic sampler on the lunar surface. China certainly has one of the top cyber-intelligence agencies.

China announced in February 5, that it will raise its defense spending by 7.6% this year. Though its lowest increase in six years, spending is twice that of Russia, and second only to the United States. Unlike the Cold War with the Soviet Union, this new world order places China and the United States more as competitors than enemies, vying for world influence and economic supremacy rather than military conflict. But military parity is what China knows is required to contend with this particular competitors.

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Football is another aspect the Chinese government has made clear its intentions to dominate. With the country’s recent investment in football, China, is morphing into sometching we have never seen before. Billions of dollars have been ploughed into the Chinese game in recent years, most notably in form of high-profile marquee signings in its progfesional league. In just 10 months , and at a cost of $185 million dollars, real estate company Evergrande turned an area of rural Southern China into a ‘football factory’, lol, the biggest football school in the world.

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“Sitting proudly outside the front gates of the school is a 40-foot tall replica FIFA World Cup trophy-a daily reminder of the ultimate goal.”

As the new century unfolds, in all probability so will China’s prospects unfold as a world power, if it remains on the path it is on. There is no doubt we have entered into a season of Chinese supremacy.