2018 Reading List and Reading Challenge – 70 Books, 2 books each week

 “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
-Charles William Eliot

For the past 2 years I’ve been making a reading list. 2017 reading list was a bit heavy with a lot of unrelated challenging categories. This year I’d focused more on books related to areas I want to focus on and have chosen relatively lighter reads than last year. I’ve either removed unknown and irrelevant areas or kept such books at minimum.

Reading Challenge
In 2018, I want to read 70 books, less than last year’s 100. I’ll begin this challenge from May 1st and about 35 weeks would be left in the year. Averaging about 2 books per week, something similar to last year.

How I Selected These Books?
I don’t want to read a book which would consume lot of time and without me gaining anything. So since March beginning I’ve been listing down areas I want to learn about and then going through reviews of and opinions on some of the best and well known books. I’ve also interacted with lot of people and asked what are their favorite books and which books had most impact on them.

The 4 Areas of Improvement for 2018:
For 2018 I’ve defined 4 areas I want to improve upon most, I call them the 4C’s for easy remembrance. They’re about being more: 1. Creative 2. Conscientious  3. Communicative & 4. Clutter-free. I’ve included books related to each of them in this list.

Priority of Books:
I missed some of the important books last year. To avoid that, I’ve added some must read shelves. The absolute must read shelves are: Writing, Death, Suicide, Depression & Mental Health, Cancer, Critical Thinking, Biology & Diseases, Psychology, Communication & Rhetoric and finally Ethics, Morality, Virtues and Humanity. These shelves will get priority over all other books.
Since I plan to write some fiction this year and I’ve been mostly reading non-fiction for the past 3 years or so, I’ve added 10 fiction books.

I’ve not kept any textbooks of areas I’m studying like last year; as I never read them cover to cover and often skip large parts. About 10 books in this list are from last year’s reading list that I’ve added to this list.

Reading Order and Categorization:
I wanted to group books by week and when I should be reading them. For that I wanted to label them on how large they are, so I’ve added a categorization and their length. I’ll post a rough week by week reading order post separately. Each book is categorized from Very Small to Medium to Very Large and is followed by number of pages:
(VS: < 100, S: < 200, M: < 350, L: < 500, VL: > 500)

I still need to add 3 books, so please suggest your favorite books!
The current Reading List has 67 books and I need 3 more. What are your favorite books? What is the most impactful book you’ve ever read?

Part I: Non-Fiction
A few years ago I’d realized I don’t read any non-fiction book. I decided to change that by reading 3 books in 2011 and achieved it. Since then I’ve been increasing the target from 1 book every month in 2013 to 1 book every week in 2016 to 2 books each week in 2017 and 2018. If you find reading challenging and want to start reading, start small and slowly increase. In no time you’d be reading a lot of books.

My areas of focus are related to my life goal: To Reduce Suffering in the World through the Project for Better World Without Diseases, Disasters and Despair. So For Despair/Man of Wisdom shelves are: Ethics et al, Philosophy, Psychology, Depression, Stoicisim etc. For Diseases shelves are: Cancer, Bio & Diseases. For Disasters: General Science. General Shelves: Biographies. Also some Personal shelves like Fitness, Writing, Communication and Business. Here’s the non-fiction list:

Writing (2)

  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King   (M, 320p)
  • The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White (VS, 105p)

Death (2)

  • How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter – Sherwin B. Nuland (M, 278p)
  • Mortality – Christopher Hitchens (VS, 104p)

Psychology, Self-Development and Productivity (8)

  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (M, 303p)
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha – Tara Brach (M, 333p)
  • On Dreams – Sigmund Freud, Montague David Eder (Translator) (VS, 64p)
  • The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life – Francine Jay (M, 298p)
  • This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life – David Foster Wallace (S, 138p)
  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell (L, 416p)
  • How to Live on 24 Hours a Day – Arnold Bennett (VS, 92p)
  • The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle (M, 229p)
  • Self Control – Its Kingship and Majesty – William George Jordan (S, 192p)

Suicide, Depression and Mental Illnesses (4)

  • The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression – Andrew Solomon (VL, 576p)
  • Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide – Kay Redfield Jamison (L, 432p)
  • November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide -George Howe Colt (VL, 640p)
  • Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig (M, 266p)

Cancer (2)

  • The Death of Cancer: Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable and How We Can Get There – Elizabeth and Vincent DeVita (M, 336p)
  • The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer and How to Win It – Clifton Leaf (VL, 512p)

Stoicisim and On Stoicism (3) 

  • The Discourses – Epictetus (L, 384p)
  • Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings – Musonius Rufus (VS, 102p)
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William B. Irvine (M, 326p)

Biographies and Mémoires (4)

  • The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank (M, 283p)
  • Leonardo da Vinci – Walter Isaacson (VL, 600p)
  • Twelve Against the Gods – William Bolitho (M, 316p)
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World – Tracy Kidder (M, 333p)

Survival, Exploration and Adventure (4)

  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette – Hampton Sides (L, 454p)
  • Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival – Dean King (M, 351p)
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing (M, 282p)
  • Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea – Steven Callahan (M, 344p)

    Applied Ethics, Morality, Virtues and Humanity (4)
  • The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty – Peter Singer (M, 224p)
  • The better Angels of Our Nature – Steven Pinkman (VL, 806p)
  • Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? – Michael J. Sandel (M, 308p)
  • After Virtue: A study in Moral Theory – Alasdair MacIntyre (M, 304p)

General Science (2)

  • Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming – Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (M, 357p )
  • Scale: The Search for Simplicity and Unity in the Complexity of Life, from Cells to Cities, Companies to Ecosystems, Milliseconds to Millennia – Geoffrey West (L, 481p)

Popular Space Science (2)

  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson (M ,222p)
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield (M, 295p)

Challenging, Hard to Read (1)

  • Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland – Christopher R. Browning (M, 271p)

Communication and Rhetoric (2)

  • The Elements of Rhetoric: How to Write and Speak Clearly and Persuasively – Ryan N.S. Topping (??)
  • How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships – Leil Lowndes (m, 345p)

Critical Thinking (3)

  • An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments – Ali Almossawi and Alejandro Giraldo (VS, 56p)
  • Logically Fallacious – Bo Bennett (M, 248p)
  • How to Lie with Statistics – Darrell Huff (S, 142p)

Philosophy and Spirituality (7)

  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki (S, 138p) 
  • The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus: A Roman Slave – Publilius Syrus, Darius Lyman Jr. (Translator) (VS, 92p)
  • The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers – Will Durant (VL, 704p)
  • The Dhammapada (S, 114p)
  • Be Here Now – Ram Dass (L, 416p)
  • The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays – Albert Camus, Justin O’Brien (Translator) (M, 212p)
  • Brahma Sūtras – Badarayana (S, 192p)

Fitness (1)

  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance – Alex Hutchinson (M, 320p)

Biology and Diseases (4)

  • House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox – William H. Foege (M, 240p)
  • The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria – Randall M. Packard (M, 320p)
  • Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor – Paul Farmer (L, 438p)
  • Illness as Metaphor – Susan Sontag (VS, 96p)

Business, Finance and Economics (2)

  • The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World – Niall Ferguson (L, 442p)
  • Business Adventures – John Brooks (L, 408p)

Part II: Fiction (10)
I’ve decided to read fiction books this year. This is mostly based on recommendations, seemingly interesting premises and/or very high reviews. I only included standalone books which aren’t part of any series. The fiction books list:

  • Silmarillon – J.R.R. Tolkien (M, 333p)
  • Kingdom Come (#1-4) – Mark Waid & Alex Ross (M, 231p)
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (VL, 584p)
  • Fahrenhite-451 – Ray Bradbury (S, 175p)
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein (M, 288p)
  • 2BR02B – Kurt Vonnegut (VVS, 15p)
  • Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse (S, 152p)
  • Pollyanna – Eleanor H. Porter (M, 304p)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini (L, 367p)
  • A Brave New World -Aldous Huxley (M, 288p)
  • Daytripper – Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá (M, 256p)Already Read 

Part Rereads (Favorite books that I go back to again and again)

  • Bhagvadgita – Original translation (without commentary) 
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
  • Letters from a Stoic – Seneca
  • Enchiridion – Epictetus 
  • War of Art – Steven Pressfield 

    “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss

    What are your favorite books? Which books would you suggest me to read? Share in the comments!

    New blog posts every Thursday and Sunday. Connect with Man of Wisdom on  FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Mail us at admin[at]manofwisdom.net 

    Till the next time, keep improving yourself, stay positive, see the joy around you, radiate happiness, stay emotionally resilient, take good care of yourself and keep trailing on your Untrailed Path.

The Bird and the Mountain – Man of Wisdom Tells Stories Part 1

[Image courtesy: BBC Planet Earth]



The crane’s last wound had almost healed now. It left a long scar on her belly. Now she was ready to fly and make an attempt one more time. Like she had done over a hundred times now.

She was an obstinate bird who had refused to give up on her flight despite consistent failures. Her body was covered in scars and wounds. She’d hit the mountains far too many times, her wings were tattered by going against storms and turbulence again and again. Her body had weakened for there is hardly any food in the frozen mountains. She was a water bird that used to eat fishes, now she could get only insects, seeds, acorns and sometimes rats, if she’s really lucky.

It’d been 6 months since she was separated from her flock. She remembered that day clearly: It was her first migration. She was hungry and tired from flying nonstop for days. The cold of Himalayas was unbearable. It was sickening. She was falling behind her flock and it seemed she’d either turn around, hunted by birds of prey or simply fall down of pure exhaustion.
 
And then she caught a glimpse. She had seen nothing so magnificent, ravishing, otherworldly. She felt the mere sight had cleansed her tardiness.
 
She’d never seen anything so tall. The mountain peak seemed to go beyond the heavens. Covered in snow it glowed like a blinding silver pillar or was it golden, under sunlight?
 
All the birds in the flock took a steep turn and avoided that mountain, which was engulfed in a storm. But she continued, as if mesmerized by its mortifying beauty. She flew straight towards the mountain, hoping to fly over it. She couldn’t even reach half of its height nor anywhere near it. The storm stopped her midway, she couldn’t fly one inch forward and then once she lost her endurance to keep flapping her wings, she was thrown straight to her death or so the flock thought, who’d finally sped up and continued their journey.
 
She fell straight through a pine tree, onto the ground which was luckily covered with fresh, thick snow. She’d survived with a broken wing and numerous thorns on her body. She somehow managed to drag herself to a crevice. Surviving on moss, fern, leaves, twigs and on some lucky days: buried insects. Once healed, she moved to low altitude, not-so-cold mountains. There she found a cave, probably abandoned by some other animal. She had found warmer caves, but she chose this because from its edge she could take a peek at the peak of that mountain., She’d decided that she’s going to fly over it, no matter what. She spent weeks collecting twigs and dried grass to make the cave warmer as well as collecting and storing some food . So she could spend her days focusing on improving her flight than hunting for food. This was her new home for the foreseeable future as she continued to practice.

She’d begun with low flights, learning how to take steep turns, conditioning  her body for cold wind and regulating her speed. When going at higher altitudes, she slowly grew accustomed to low oxygen but faired poorly against the turbulence and stormy winds, which she could never get through. She’d return to her cave with new wounds.

It’d been months since she’d seen anyone of her kind. Yet she could see the mountain from her cave. She shared her loneliness with it, her companion in solitude. Whenever she felt lonely, she’d steal a glimpse of the peak and would feel better.
 
Each time going out of the cave took great courage. The winds were precarious and flying over Himalayas, even the lowest mountains is perilous. The height is too great, the temperature too cold and the winds too strong. The turbulence and storms stand like an invisible barrier, sometimes even over the mountains – as if the mountains weren’t high enough! She’d wait for weeks for good weather to practice.
 
But good weather was rare. Frequent hail and snowing had made her feathers coarse and brittle. She’d lose lot of feathers in her flights against strong winds. This made flying even more challenging. The cold was often overwhelming and no matter how much dried grass she’d cover herself with, she still shivered. Sunlight reflected from snow covered mountains were blinding and her eyesight had weakened over time. There was lack of oxygen at such heights and she’d try to breathe in as much chilly air as she could, feeling the sting inside-out. 

But she’d look at the frozen mountain and strangely, it’d warm her heart. Under sunlight the snow glistened on the mountain, it felt like a golden river was flowing down. It was the most gorgeous sight she’d ever seen. She wanted to come close to it, to fly over it, to touch it, even once, even if it meant death…
 

She’d made the attempts too many times, always aiming for the peak. But Everest is no joke, as she realized after dozens and dozens of flights and falls. But she always made the attempt one more time. Her mind was occupied monomaniacally to cross over the mountain that challenged her spirit.
 
After weeks of waiting, she found the weather was comparatively clearer. She left her cave and began her flight. She was still miles from the mountain and harsh winds broke her ascent. Her flight was no longer smooth, there was a hailstorm ahead, she’d to turn back. Else one hit and she could be dead. Dejected, she began her descent.

As if the storm wasn’t enough, on her way back, she saw a shadow passing over her. She turned upside down and saw him: his wings were large and broad, they seemed to cover the sun. She’d seen eagles attacking birds earlier, but to see an eagle up close was daunting. She dived down, she’d to get to her cave. Its opening was not large enough for the eagle to enter but the cave was deep enough for her to stay out of reach. Then she saw her imminent death: there was another eagle beneath her. Himalayan eagles hunted in pairs. Perhaps their nest was close by or may be it was miles away. It didn’t matter. Neither height nor distance is a big hurdle for an eagle.
 

The eagle hovering above her took a deep dive. Bolting down like a spear sent from hell. His wings cutting through the wind, like a bullet aimed straight at her. He was getting closer and closer to her. His flight was so majestic, so intense yet so graceful; for a second she forgot she is his prey. He was almost at her height now. She tried to fly rapidly up and down, in waves – quickly changing her altitude and taking sharp turns but he followed the exact course, locked onto her like a torpedo. She could hear his wings fluttering. Too close, too close, she thought. She was completely exhausted, she could no longer continue. She felt the talons on her back, her feathers torn, blood spurted. It was painful. The claws grasped around her neck and the eagle flew up. She writhed in pain. He was flying up, going for his nest. He carried her as if she was weightless. His strength was terrifying.

As they emerged from the shadow of a small mountain, she saw it: Everest covered in sunlight. She still hadn’t flown over it, not even touched it! She couldn’t die here. She must escape. She had to try. She curled herself into a ball. Her wings inflated like a parachute, resisting the wind. Everything about eagles was aerodynamic. Having a parachute like resistance suddenly slowed the flight. Startling and greatly taxing the eagle. His grip loosened. The exerting eagle due to his insane momentum flew straight ahead like a missile, while she fell down like a stone. She’d evaded the first eagle. He was too far to follow and must have hoped her mate below would make the kill.

She opened her wings to stop the fall, trying to glide towards the mountains. She could see the female eagle below her, who was laser focused on her, following her every move. Was this the end? The mountain image was fresh in her head, she decided to give it her all. In her dozens of unsuccessful attempts, she had learned a lot about diving and falling. When you fall from 23000 feet, you are freely falling in gravity and can do lot of risky acrobatics in air before you’re endangered by gravity. She slanted her legs backwards, stretched her neck outward and began spinning herself forward. Thanks to her sharp beak and her serrated claws, she struck the eagle like a shuriken. Her beaks and claws dug through the eagles body, tearing its head apart.

The hunter was hunted. The crane had never enjoyed such a nourishing meal. Snow is a great preserver and the meat lasted almost a month for her. 

This encounter taught her a lot. She realized she needs to build strength. She must nourish her body. She also needs to understand and feel the wind flow better and utilize it as much as she can. She could learn a lot from the way eagles flew. She was still in awe of the dive, the strength, the effortless fly and the focus of the eagles. They were master aviators, truly apex predator of the skies. And that was because of the way they utilized the wind to fly and their bodies.
 
Sadly a crane’s body is not that aerodynamic friendly. Their bodies are more suited for warmer climate near the water bodies, closer to the ground. So she’d to make the best of what she had. She spent almost three months strengthening herself and learning to fly like an eagle. She was ready for the final flight.
 
Everest was enveloped in a thick, blinding hailstorm. As if the storm was its guardian that must be dueled, a trial that must be triumphed. She wasn’t strong enough to soar to its peak in this tornado. So she decided to use the storm to her advantage; same storm that had nearly killed her numerous times. The main obstacle was getting inside the hailstorm. The outer winds are strong and impenetrable and random flying and falling ice rocks could kill her.
 
Wind and snow can be thick, but she was  a water bird. She would regularly jump in an opposing current to catch fish. She could dive through the hailstorm, she just had to get through the outermost turbulence layer.
 
Remembering the eagle’s dive and how she herself would jump in streams, once she got close to the hailstorm she closed her wings, straightened her body and used her momentum to get through the turbulence, penetrating it like a drill. Now she was inside the storm, but in the opposite direction of the wind. She could barely last a second. She instantly turned completely around to align with the wind direction and opened her wings slightly. She was riding the storm wind. She slanted herself slightly vertically and the wind was taking her up. Balls of snow and garbage left by human mountaineers was flying randomly throughout. She’d to dodge continuously. One hit and she’d lose control over flight and would be killed. Hailstones even larger than her were floating randomly. Her eyes had teared up due to piercing cold wind and the moisture was frozen and crystallized. She was essentially blind in the blizzard. She folded her neck and used her wings to break the ice on her eyes. But this ruined her control, she got strayed in the wind. A sharp ice stone pierced her still crystalized left eye. Her white head became red with the blood, which instantly froze. She couldn’t possibly fly with a blinded eye. She was going to fall to her death at the footsteps of Everest. With her one good eye she could see the summit, after all she was flying over its base. She’d never been so close. Oh this damn mountain! What all she’s already gone through for it?! The mountain glittered in the sunshine, this time it didn’t feel heartwarming. This time the bird found it annoying as if the mountain was mockingly, triumphantly smiling on his invincibility. There’s no way in hell this piece of tall rock would stop her now.

She inflated her wings to increase the drag and cease the fall. Then facing upwards, she aligned herself to the direction of the wind. Gliding was not going to cut it. She used all her strength, beating her wings to raise her height. She had never flew so fast, rising hundreds of meters in mere moments but to her it felt like eternity. She was sapped of her strength, her vitality and maybe even her hope. As if fortune smiled on her, soon enough she saw  the peak. Within moments she was close to it and then at same height. Then finally flying over it.

She took a sharp dive and her feet touched the peak. She landed there. She felt rapture. Hundreds of fall, dozens of wounds, hungry nights, no air to breathe, unbearable cold and even losing an eye – all was worth it. She felt a strange warmth over one of the coldest places on the planet.

But it didn’t last. The mountain was unforgivable. Its guardian storm had intensified, as if unable to digest that its impregnable walls of hailstorms were breached by a mere bird. So it gathered all its forces to bury it right there and remove all evidence it happened. She couldn’t stay there for too long or she’d be frozen dead. She ran over the peak and jumped, in descent she’d to just cut through the wind and then ride it like an eagle. She was out of the storm. She looked back one last time. That glorious golden mountain. Their affair was now over. She faced forward never to look back.

After some hours time, over the horizon she could see the greenery. Warm weather, big fishes, soothing baths and green surroundings, oh how much she’d missed it! 

She was the first bird to migrate this year, a month before any bird. She was also the first bird foolish enough to migrate over Himalayas at peak winter through raging storms. First to migrate solo, without even one companion. And of course, the first bird to ever fly over Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. But she was blissfully unaware of it as she lay into warm water after munching on belly full of fishes.

The humans called Everest “The mountain no bird can fly over”, they had no idea.

 
It was outworldly, that in an icy wasteland a bird could find warmth in a frozen mountain. And she could share her loneliness with it.


Liked the story? Please share it! 
Man of Wisdom Tells Stories is a new story series. We’ll post an inspiring story every 2 weeks on Tuesdays. New blog posts every Thursday and Sunday.

Connect with Man of Wisdom on  FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Mail us at admin[at]manofwisdom.net 

Till the next time, keep improving yourself, stay positive, see the joy around you, radiate happiness, stay emotionally resilient, take good care of yourself and keep trailing on your Untrailed Path.

10 Essential Virtues for Modern Times and How to Develop Them – Being Virtuous is Self-Transcending Part 1

Being Virtuous - Slowly confronting and illuminating the dark parts of our conscience

“He that has energy enough to root out a vice should go further, and try to plant a virtue in its place.”  ~Charles Caleb Colton

This is part 2 of the 5 part series on Self Caring: Healthy Body, Mind, Heart (emotional/spiritual aspect), Character and Lifestyle.  This post focuses on Character and Virtues. The last post on Self-Discipline as healthy lifestyle is here.

This post on Character and Virtue is divided in 2 parts, this is part one. Part 2 on developing Character and a Personal Moral Code would be published on Sunday.

What are virtues and vices?
Virtues are the morally excellent qualities in a person. Vices are the bad qualities that harm self as well as others. As opposed to vices, virtues are inherently good for the person and often for others too.

Why we should be virtuous?
For a life of fulfillment, happiness, inner harmony, clarity, success, peace, stronger relationships, deeper bonds, abundance and prosperity, we should try to be virtuous. Since all our progress and experience that’s in our hands is ruled by our virtues and values, it’s essential that we try to be more virtuous.
Also it’s important to answer the opposite question: Why you shouldn’t be virtuous? You shouldn’t be if you want to live with guilt, being hurt, poor ethics, self harm, hurting others, and essentially acquire all vices and damage they bring on a personal and community level.

How to be virtuous?
“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” -August Wilson
To be virtuous requires self-observation, contemplation and correction of our thoughts, behavior and actions. Are we thinking and doing good? What are the bad qualities and habits we have? Where we can improve?
From a more practical perspective, pick up something bad that you do/think or good you want to do/think and slowly try to practice it on a small level. This is general advice. Below, with each virtue, I give points specific to it that are helpful in developing the virtue.

Isn’t Virtue an outdated Concept, irrelevant in modern times?
“Focus on making yourself better, not on thinking that you are better.” – Bohdi Sanders.
No. Virtues would be relevant as long as machines don’t completely take over us and as long as thinking and acting human beings would exist – because there will always be possibility of becoming a better version of ourselves.

Making Virtues Mainstream Again
“We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.” John Steinbeck
We live in a society of advertisement and marketing that emphasizes on vices and temptations and how it’s good to indulge in them, all to sell their products and services. They make people who don’t indulge as “uncool” people. The sad aspect is not only they succeed in selling their products but they succeed in making this thinking mainstream. Let’s change this.
Embrace virtues. From one perspective, purpose of life is to be the best version of ourselves. Embrace virtues and appreciate people for their virtues. And especially parents, try to teach your children about why and how to be virtuous and encourage them to be virtuous.

The Popular 7 Virtues
Following and a few other virtues have been mentioned repeatedly in religious and social texts, often as the opposite of the 7 cardinal sins: The virtues that have been chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. I think this needs revision.

10 Essential Virtues for Modern Times
There are too many virtues and it’s not possible to imbibe all virtues. So I tried to narrow down the list of essential virtues to the following 10. Each virtue is followed with a brief discussion, set of associated virtues and quick glance over important points to develop them. I think these are the most essential virtues one should dedicate life to developing:

Virtue 1: Kindness
“Searching all directions with one’s awareness, one finds no one dearer than oneself. In the same way, others are fiercely dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others, if one loves oneself.” –Udana.
Kindness remains as relevant now as it was 3000 years ago. Kindness and the level at which we can feel and practice it is what, more than any other trait, separates us from animals.
Associated virtues: 
Helpfulness, Caring, Charity, Loving, Altruism, Equity, Selflessness, Inclusiveness.
Developing the Virtue: Count to 5 before judging anyone. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before judging someone. Recognize good in people. Smile more. Try to leave everyone or at least someone (feeling) better than you found them. Help people in need. Be there. If can’t help, don’t hurt. Don’t increase anyone’s burden if you can’t share it.

Virtue 2: Action
“It’s not who am I but what I do that defines me.” – Batman Begins.
We spend too much time in talking, thinking, feeling and reacting and hardly any in doing. From armchair activism at community level to procrastination and distraction at personal level, our problems are only magnified as we take less and less actions and find more excuses to avoid our work. I could’ve put this along with self-discipline. But it’s high time that we begin to reward people who act more than people who talk. Value action more than words and intentions. Appreciate people who act.
Associated Virtues: 
Hard work, Decisiveness, Diligence, Progress.
Developing the Virtue: Start small. Start. Don’t wait for right moment or right feeling or motivation. Associate work with cause you care about. Plan minimally. Schedule your time. Be committed. Start small. Start now. Start. Do.

Virtue 3: Positivity and Emotional Hygiene
“There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing?” C. JoyBell
Lot of people I interact with are negative towards their lives, their friends and family, pessimistic towards their abilities, passive towards bright possibilities. Lot of us feel too much sadness, guilt, inferiority, take people’s opinion to heart.
Emotional Hygiene: We don’t live in dirty, messy environment then why should we allow our consciousness to reside amongst negative, self-sabotaging, self harming, self impairing thoughts? Practice emotional hygiene. Confront your negative thoughts take necessary steps to address them and if they recur purge them, eliminate them. 
Associated Virtues: Patience, Liveliness, Meaningful Distractions, Forgiveness, Encouragement.
Developing the Virtue: Emotional well-being is part of the series on self caring and there’d be a detailed post next week

Virtue 4: Resilience and Self Preservation
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive. ” – Jamais Cascio
Life is hard. This is a truth we should try to understand and accept. Circumstances would probably never be as perfect as we would like them to be. We’d meet with defeats, rejections, indifference, hatred, pain, sadness and the most difficult to deal with – loss of loved ones. And we’d have to live.
Survivalism: We must have an unflinching love for self and self-preservation. We must tattoo this in our brain that our life is a priceless, precious gift to us by nature/God/probability and we must try to preserve it at all costs. No matter what comes our way we have to survive and live.
Associated Virtues: Grit, ResolveSelf Love, Courage, Self Caring, Patience.
Developing the Virtue: Value self and your life beyond anything. Believe in self. Prepare for unfavorable situations before hand.

Virtue 5: Courage and Individuality
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”  –Friedrich Nietzsche
It takes courage to follow our dreams, be ourselves and have individual opinions where so many indulge in group thinking, follow the rat race and echo mass opinions without thinking through. It takes courage to stand up to our challenges, our enemies but even more to our friends, family as sometimes we need to. Sometimes we’ve to choose what we believe in, especially when we’re right, even if we’re in minority or completely alone.
Associated Virtues: Saying “no”. Boldness. Self Expression.
Developing the Virtue: Stand up for what you believe in. Express it. Manifest it. Encourage others. Raise your voice. Don’t lose who you are for others.

Virtue 6: Self Discipline and Self Regulation
No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful that it may not be subdued by discipline.” -Seneca
In a sense we’re sophisticated apes and our monkey minds can’t cope with so many temptations, distractions and desires especially when they’re so easy to satiate in modern world. It wants to be gratified right now but is simply insatiable. Its demands are unending. Discipline and self-regulation are what we need to navigate through all the distractions, improve our self and get things done.
Associated Virtues: Developing all virtues and all growth depends on level of self-discipline. It’s a core virtue. Temperance.
Developing the Virtue: Start small. Practice tough love. Eliminate distractions. Work in quite, secluded environment. I consider discipline as lifestyle and this was part 1 of self caring, here’s a post detailing how to develop self-discipline.

Virtue 7: Awareness
“Be the witness of your thoughts.” – Buddha
This is probably the most important easily available but rarely utilized faculties of our mind. By awareness I mean observing the thoughts that arise in our mind. This practice alone is great. But later on, in the beginning we can slowly steer the thoughts in the direction of our choice. Later when proficient, we can completely change our thinking in a moment. Mastering our awareness and thinking is almost a superpower. You can take actions, you can truly experience or completely alter your emotions, change mood in an instant, stay resilient, positive and respond proactively rather than merely reacting.
Time Management: Managing time is not in our control. What we can manage is our awareness, thoughts, focus and then take actions accordingly. Planning, scheduling, tracking etc. is efficient but you actually have to get things done and that comes easily when you can manage your thoughts.
Associated Virtues: Mindfulness, Time, Energy and Focus Management.
Developing the Virtue: Meditate. Observe, visualize, confront and clarify your thoughts. Utilize meaningful distractions.

Virtue 8: Dedication to Truth
“This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Shakespeare
Dedication to truth means consistently revising our map of reality and not being deluded by daydreaming, illusions and how we want things to be to make ignore how things are. If you don’t even acknowledge the problem, you can’t solve it. Be honest with self.
Being truthful to others is also very good. Truth almost always is better than sweet talking.
Associated Virtues: Truthfulness, Humility.
Developing the Virtue: Continuously revise your map of reality i.e. what you believe to be true. Don’t let daydreaming and idle reveries drift you away from truth. Even if truth is harsh or inconvenient, problems can only be solved when you actually observe and accept there indeed is some problem. Don’t white lie i.e. lie to yourself. Be open to challenge of your view of reality from other people.

Virtue 9: Learning
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” –Jiddu Krishnamurti
One of my favorite virtues. In the age of information, ignorance is choice. Lot of knowledge is few taps or clicks away. From improving ourselves, to progressing in our careers, strengthening our relationships, resolving our problems – if we seek properly, we’ll find the answers. This idea should be considered very empowering. The onus of finding answers to our problems is on us.
Associated Virtues:
Curiosity, Observation, Introspection and Reflection. Wisdom, Financial, Survival & other Knowledge. Learning from setbacks.
Developing the Virtue:  
Be curious, observe, introspect, reflect, correct and assimilate. See which areas of your life can you resolve/improve through knowledge. Then seek the answers.

Virtue 10: Self Caring
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Sharon Salzberg
Associated Virtues: 
Being Healthy (Physically, Mentally, Emotionally), Being Virtuous, Being Disciplined.
Developing the Virtue:
Remember, you deserve happiness, peace and your own love too. Begin by taking care of your emotions and lifestyle. Take care of your health. Since this is self referencing, when this 5 part series on self-caring concludes, I’d link each part and the conclusion here.

Bonus Virtue: Discernment and Decisiveness
“Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.” – Brian Tracy
This could have been put alongside other virtues but I found it important enough to make a point about it. Everyday, we’ve to make hundreds of decisions, choices and judgements. The ability to minimize decisions and making effective choices can really boost up our productivity, stress and help us excel in our work. Indecision and delay diminish progress.
Associated Virtues: Judgment, Deciding what is right and wrong, Balancing.
Developing the Virtue: Always try to make some choice. Practice. Plan before hand. This would also be covered more in the cognitive aspect of Self Caring in future blog post.

A Word of Caution on Extremes of Virtues
Virtues need to practiced with balance. Too much of virtue isn’t always a good thing. In some cases people can take advantage of you, in other cases you could be harming yourself. As Adam Grant puts it:
Too little of a virtue is bad, but so is too much. Aristotle believed that every virtue lies between vices of deficiency and excess. Too little humor is dry; too much is silly. Too little pride makes us meek; too much breeds narcissism. Too much self-restraint leaves you doing homework while your friends are tailgating. Too little self-restraint means you’ll really regret eating that fourth Scotsman Dog.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. Next post on Ethics, Morals, Values, developing Character and Personal Code and hows and whys of it would be published on Sunday.

I’d conclude the Self Caring series in about Mid June. Then I’d be writing about Death, Dying and Dealing with Loss of Loved Ones because it’s a topic so many of us struggle with but we don’t talk much about and so there’s little info on how to make sense of life.


Did you like the post? Where can we improve? Please give your valuable feedback. Thanks a lot for reading!

Connect with Man of Wisdom on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates. New blog posts every Thursday and Sunday.

Be kind. Stay positive. Radiate happiness. Goodbye. Take care. Keep Trailing on your Untrailed Path. ?

 


Notes:

Self Discipline is Self Caring – 10 Ways to Be More Disciplined and Love it


“No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful 
that it may not be subdued by discipline.”
-Seneca

I am trying to be more disciplined myself as I write this post (this was supposed to be published on Sunday not Tuesday!), so do not treat this as something coming from an authority but from an experimenter and a fellow companion in the journey to be more self-disciplined.

(This is part one of 3 part series on Self Caring – Healthy Body, Heart and Lifestyle. This focuses on being self-disciplined as a lifestyle trait. The rest 2 would be published next Thursdays and Sundays.)

What is Self Discipline?
Merriam-Webster defines self-discipline or self-control as “correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement“. They also provide a simpler and more helpful definition for English language learners: “the ability to make yourself do things that should be done”.

Apt. Self-discipline is about doing things you do not want to do but you know you need to do and going ahead and doing them despite the inherent discomfort and reluctance. Some examples would be studying for the impending test when you want to watch TV, having that important but uncomfortable conversation with your partner when you’d rather browse internet, working out when you want to eat an ice cream and so on.

Our brains are wired for comfort and pleasure and discipline feels inherently difficult, bad and repulsive. So why is it needed?

The Importance of Self Discipline
In his book, The Road Less Traveled, Psychologist M. Scott Peck offers the following perspective on the importance of self-discipline:

Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.

Discipline is essential for utilizing our full potential, realizing our possibilities and becoming the person we are meant to be. In all aspects of life – be it physical, mental or emotional health, personal or professional relationships, all goals and living a happier, peaceful life – discipline is essential and perhaps the most important quality. A few points to help you realize this:

Self Disciplined People are Happier
“It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life that those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest men.” – Brutus Hamilton.
According to a study by psychologist Wilhelm Hofman and his team at University of Chicago, people who are disciplined and are able to refrain from impulses are happier. This seems counter-intuitive, because if I can eat a cake now and everyday, am I not lot happier than someone who is disciplined in diet and eats boiled vegetables? The answer is sure, I am having more pleasure but in long-term it’s more likely I’d be prone to diseases like diabetes and heart diseases and would live a far stressful life versus someone in more control of their diet, who would likely be healthier, thinner, less susceptible to diseases and would avoid stress.

Corollary: Pleasure vs Happiness
A lot of people confuse instant gratification, which is release of pleasure chemicals like dopamine, with happiness which is wrong. Happiness is an abundance of positive emotions like joy, interest, pride, gratitude, an inner satisfaction and appreciation of life. Pleasure is just one small aspect which depends on external factors. You may not experience the pleasure without the cake but you can be happy – cake is not needed. Also gratification in this instant often leads to stress, sadness, disappointments and other overwhelming negative emotions later in life.

Self Discipline means Less Stress, Pain and Disappointments
“The more disciplined you become the easier life gets.” – Steve Pavlina
I think this is easier to understand. If you submit your homework on time, you escape from late submission punishment. If you put work and heart in your relationship everyday, you skip later disappointments. If you find time for your physical, mental and emotional health, you’re less likely to suffer from diseases, mental deterioration and would be more resilient and prudent in unfavorable circumstances. If you follow your work deadlines, you’re more likely to be promoted and less likely to be fired.
The key thing in all of these instances is attempting the necessary thing now for future rewards. But in doing so, you face your greatest enemy: the current you.

We hate ourselves (Please read this carefully)
A lot of us hate ourselves. Don’t believe me? How else can you justify the pain, disappointment, suffering and torture that our current self inflicts on our future self for momentary pleasure? We consider ourselves excluded of suffering our future self would go through. We believe it’s some different person who would be dying in a hospital, who would be going through a divorce, who would be fired from her job, who would be failing in his exam. Despite knowing such catastrophic outcomes that our future version would go through, we still indulge in petty pleasures that we know would ruin us and our lives.

Loving the “Future-You”
“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel
How do we address and overcome this self-hatred? One easily overlooked fact we need to realize is that just as our future self suffers from our current self’s indulgence, irresponsibility and debauchery. Our future self and therefore we, also reap the rewards like happiness, achievements, fulfillment, joy, peacefulness, loving environment and so on – if we exhibit more self-control and discipline now. It’s us who would be happier, healthier, have a great married life, richer, calmer, stress free and successful. As you’d see in the later section attuning ourselves with reality and our responsibility also helps us being kinder to ourselves. Begin to love yourself. Do not live a life where the present self is indifferent to the future self and lives in the regret of things past self did. It’s just you. Do not inflict such pain on yourself.

Corollary: Accept There’s No Different Person in Future.
Again, the person who experiences gratification now and suffers later are same people – you. Visualize and imagine yourself as reaping the results of your actions before indulging in pleasure. It’s you who suffers or succeeds. Be more connected with your future version through visualization, long-term plans, goals, letters/emails to future self, being mindful in this instant and consistent evaluation of where you’re heading in life.

The Structured Life
Discipline is formed through habits, over long period of time. More organized, structured and timely you’re in your daily, seemingly insignificant activities like sleeping, eating, bathing etc. the more disciplined you’d be in other, more significant aspects of your life such as health, relationship, career etc. and more time you’ll find for them.

Discipline is a Journey
And a slow one at that. It doesn’t happen that you’re in-disciplined and suddenly decide to be more disciplined and poof! -are now in complete control of all aspects of life. Sorry but you’d crash and burn. Discipline is like a muscle, the more you practice the better you become. Just like weight lifting, in the beginning you start small. Slowly, daily challenge yourself to larger goals i.e. more uncomfortable tasks and become stronger.

10 Ways to Become More Self Disciplined
I’ll discuss only 5 (6-10) here in detail and simply mention the rest (1-5) that are better explained in the post on Overcoming Instant Gratification. Let’s jump into them:

6. Shipping is Better than Perfecting
Pursuing Perfection is one of the most common excuse and most overlooked mistake. It’s deeply intertwined with self-discipline. Whether you’re trying to be more self disciplined or applying it in a task, know that it’s better to just do something than to delay it. It’s better to get something done than to avoid and delay any progress.
I used the word Shipping instead of Doing. Shipping means you’re open to criticism, feedback, any measurement of your activity. Writing this blog post and saving it in my drafts is doing, publishing it – putting it out in the world and getting feedback from real people is shipping.

7. Rituals are Better than Habits
Self discipline is a process and is built through good habits/routines. You don’t wake up early, workout, make your bed, study, talk to your partner once a year, you’ve to do it regularly. As I interpret Rituals are habits that are performed with attention, devotion, mindfulness and a sort of celebration. You don’t skip it. Rituals have the automaticity & self-initiation of habits but are performed with more attentiveness and more involvement. Habits can be bad but since you really think through and involve in rituals, they’re always good. Discipline cultivated through rituals is more effective than one built through habits.

8. You’d Never “Feel Right”
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ – Pablo Picasso
Another powerful and somewhat rational excuse we give ourselves is “I don’t feel like doing it”. True. When there’s a pile of pizza a call away, you won’t feel like sticking to your diet or working out, ever. Motivation is extremely overrated and comes after the task is done or at least begun. Doing anything requires a touch of madness, just jumping into it, regardless of how we’re feeling.

9 . Prioritizing Tasks & Time Management (Einsenhower Decision Box)
The 34th President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower was one of the greatest leaders in history. He proposed division of all tasks into Important and Urgent and then acting on them. From a brilliant, must read post from Art of Manliness:
Eisenhower Decision Matrix urgent important

Urgent means that a task requires immediate attention. These are the to-do’s that shout “Now!” Urgent tasks put us in a reactive mode, one marked by a defensive, negative, hurried, and narrowly-focused mindset.

Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals. Sometimes important tasks are also urgent, but typically they’re not. When we focus on important activities we operate in a responsive mode, which helps us remain calm, rational, and open to new opportunities.

The key is to focus more on important tasks than urgent tasks.

10. Keep a Track of Your Progress
You’d be better self disciplined and in more control of life if you know where you’re heading and how you’ve progressed. Maintaining this in a journal, app or digital document may really help you becoming more self disciplined, identifying and correcting the mistakes you make and the obstacles or circumstances that lure you away.

1. Start Small (so small it seems ridiculously easy).
2. Minimize Temptations (remove them!) and use Meaningful Distractions to your advantage.
3. Know that Willpower can be replenished and increased. Increase it.
4. Start Accountability and/or Support System
5. Be Consistent (Build the Momentum and Be Committed). Be Persistent (It’s ok to fail but it’s important to try again tomorrow)


4 Tools for Self Discipline (optional but highly recommended read)
The post was already long, so I put this separately. The Road Less Traveled is divided in 4 sub-parts, the first part is discipline. The author recommends 4 tools to be more disciplined in life:
1. Delaying gratification
“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”
“Serving one’s own passions is the greatest slavery.” – Thomas Fuller

This is the single most important tool in becoming more disciplined. I won’t cover this here, because I’ve covered in far more detail drawing insights from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and practical examples in a previous post here: Overcoming Instant Gratification

2. Acceptance of Responsibility
“We can’t solve a problem by saying “it’s not my problem”. We must accept the responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. The difficulty we have in accepting the responsibility for our behavior lies in desire to avoid pain in the consequences of that behavior.”
You can’t escape from freedom of responsibility you have for your life. You can’t attribute your problems to society, system, parents, children, race and so on. Sure they may have some partial contribution to your current situation but you cannot be disciplined in life unless you accept where you are and determine where you want to be, in spite of the external factors that hinder you.

3. Dedication to Truth (Reality)
“Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”
Continuously Revise Your Map – For our map i.e. our view of reality to be accurate we need to consistently revise it. This is painful and so a lot people avoid it. Their outdated maps make them think the reality is same in adulthood as it was in childhood, same in college as was in school, same when being single and married and so on.
Be Open To Challenge: The only way to ascertain that our view of reality is accurate is by being willing to be challenged from other people’s view of reality. Else we form a view and stick to it, a closed system. Consistently seek feedback and correct yourself.
A lot of people never confront reality/truth and live in a dreamland. You cannot be disciplined without accepting you are not. Be dedicated to reality and strive to have it more accurate.
Do not withhold Truth: Do not white lie i.e. withhold part of truth at least from self. Don’t indulge in black lying i.e. accept something as true despite knowing it to be false.  Wake up from dreamland.

4. Balancing
“To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. In other words, discipline itself must be disciplined. ”
It’s neither possible nor necessary to be disciplined all the time. When acting spontaneously and immediate gratification is not destructive, we should act on it. This balancing comes with time and should be practiced with our best judgement.


Did you like the post? Where can we improve? Please give your valuable feedback. Thanks a lot!

Connect with Man of Wisdom on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates. New blog posts every Thursday and Sunday.

Be kind. Stay positive. Radiate happiness. Goodbye. Take care. Keep Trailing on your Untrailed Path. 🙂