Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 70

As mammals, we have survival instincts and defense mechanism in place to keep us safe and alive. The "flight or fight" response. Whatever you want to call it. I know I have it. As the old saying goes, "burned once, think twice."

However, sometimes I believe that this survival instinct or defense mechanism is what's limited us. It's a form of negative reinforcement. If you do something wrong or bad, you're going to be punished, so you're not going to do it again. This feedback loop may keep us alive, but are we really living?

A few years ago, a colleague of mine introduced me to a series of self-help tapes called Limitless People. It was an interesting seminar, but I didn't really think much of it. A lot of it was the same self-help crap, really: "you can do anything/just do it/don't let anyone tell you what you can't do/perseverance..."

Of course reality is not that simple. We are "limited" people. From the day we were born, we're bombarded with messages of what we can or cannot do: from our parents, teachers, peers, colleagues, authorities, bosses, politicians, religious leaders, etc. Every day we hear this: "You can't do this because it's wrong." The only time we can exercise our little deviant acts is when we're alone, in the privacy of our homes, when we feel we have some kind of control. We can be anyone we want in our fantasies, and do whatever we want in the comfort of our homes. That's why Internet dating service is a-booming and video games are such great tension releaser. In our fantasy, we can be ancient warriors or space heros, killing evil people (or, in some cases, we ARE the evil people killing everyone we don't like).

In real life, though, we are limited by what we "can or cannot" do.

There are times, though, I have to convince myself that "I CAN." Somehow, it seems like it really is mind over matters sometimes, however impossible it may seem. I mean, if Obama could become President in a country where racial tension is still evident in many parts, everything seems possible. It's decided by how much we really want it, and what we would do to get what we want.

Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.
- Randy Pausch ( 1960-2008 )

Case study: just a few short months ago I made a big mistake of trading some Apple Inc. options. You'd think, Apple is doing great, so what's the matter? The problem, I got into the market without much research, and the timing was wrong. I ended up losing quite a bit of money, enough to burn my hands. That has stopped me. I didn't even want to look at the stock. I have a mental block because the burn on my hands was so painful. What I did was I let that negative experience hinder me. I got so emotionally attached to it that I couldn't see through the fog. I couldn't step back and look at it without being emotional involved.

I know many people feel that way about the stock market or investments. When times are good, people feast and forget about that "what goes up must come down, eventually." So when things turn south, people panic and they get burned. My parents got so burned by the stock market in the 1970s that they have NOT invested their money in the stock market for almost over 30 years. Think about the opportunities lost, there -- and there's no way I can convince them otherwise (lead by example doesn't work -- they have a permanent emotional scar there).

Back to Apple, Inc. The fact is, Apple has since recovered by their "dip" and gone up almost 50% since May. FIFTY PERCENT. If I had let go of my emotions and done my objective analysis and homework, I would have reinvested and not only made back all the money I lost, but probably made another $25,000 in just a few months. But no, I didn't do it. I was afraid to even look at the stock for fear of making the same mistakes again.

Fear.

Fear may keep us alive, but it's not letting us live.

From now on, I'd like to tell Fear to get the fuck out of here. Get lost. Go to Hell. Leave me alone. I have no use for Fear.

And if I get burned, get rejected, I'll have to convince myself to take a step back, detach my emotions, and assess the situation objectively and try again. You don't get to become a great chef without having been cut, sliced, jabbed, or burned in the kitchen. You don't get to become a financial tycoon without losing your shoes a few times first. You don't get to become the President without burning a few bridges.

We won't know the sweet nectar of success if we hadn't failed before.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself
- FDR, 1932

It was true then. It's true now. It will be true forever.

500 words, 26300 words total
295 days and 159200 words to go

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