Other humans. They are sources of our happiness. They are sources of our sorrows. Yet, do we really understand why they behave the way they do? Human behavior has always been a subject that has fascinated me. There have been many times in my life when I just had to shake my head, not comprehending why someone did what they did.
Yet, people doing things is what shapes current events. When the economy crashed in 2008, it was due to human factors. When Caesar decided to cross the Rubicon, there were deep seated psychological reasons at play. …
“Beware of advice — even this.” — Carl Sandburg
Successful people are often used as examples for others. The message that you usually hear is that if you do things like them, you too can become successful. Follow what they do, act like them and riches beyond your wildest imagination will come knocking at your door.
However one of the things that I have been thinking about lately is what lessons can you really learn from these types of cases. …
“No one else has his work ethic or his clarity of vision, his passion for the craft.”
— Judd Apatow when describing Jerry Seinfeld
In the 1990’s, Jerry Seinfeld had the biggest comedy show on television. Legions of adoring fans would be glued to their screens whenever an episode was on. Going for 9 seasons straight, NBC offered Jerry the opportunity to do a 10th season, for 1 million dollars per episode. He turned it down.
Instead, the comedian went back to his first passion: stand-up. The man worth hundreds of millions of dollars decided to start from the bottom. As a huge star, he didn’t need to work for a living ever again. …
“Human happiness and human satisfaction must ultimately come from within oneself.” — Dalai Lama
On one beautiful day many millennia ago, the Buddha was teaching a student about the nature of life. The youngster was having a hard time understanding the lesson on self-inflicted pain, so Siddhartha started explaining it with a metaphor.
The Buddha asked the student: “If the person is stuck by an arrow, is it painful?”
Without hesitation the student replied: “It is.”
The Buddha went on: “If the same person is stuck by a second arrow, is that not even more painful?”
Once again, the student agreed: “It is.” …
“Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well.” — Abraham Lincoln
In her book on the political genius of Abraham Lincoln “A Team of Rivals”, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin goes deep into the psyche of the man who many consider America’s greatest president. Faced with a civil war, the country split in two, Lincoln was able to steer a clear course and emerge victorious.
What made him great was his strength of character. The 16th president of the United States had the unique ability of turning his former rivals into allies and friends. His personal qualities allowed him to cool down potential inter-personal conflicts, learn from mistakes, and above all to always have a steady and rational head. …
“A Republic, if you can keep it.” — Benjamin Franklin
A small group of senators and other magistrates is holed up in the Capitol. Angry mobs are causing carnage outside, clamoring to get in. After several rounds of political violence, deadlock, and even death, things have gotten this far. The pressure is on, the stakes are high.
The year is 100 BC, and these events are unfolding in Rome. The mighty Roman Republic had been the most powerful country in the world for the past hundred years, its governmental institutions admired far and wide. Yet, something is starting to give.
The men who barricaded themselves on the Capitoline Hill were Saturninus, a senator and tribune of the plebs, and some of his followers. …
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” — Stephen Hawking
At the age of 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating disease in which you lose control over your muscles. Given only a few years to live, the future physics genius became severely depressed. His doctors advised him to go on with his studies, but Stephen felt otherwise.
In his mind there was little point in even getting out of bed. However, over time his spirits began to be lifted. …
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin
As a kid, the holiday season was my favorite part of the year. The songs, the bright lights, the food, all these things sparked my imagination. There was a spirit of joy in the air, one that gave that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart.
Coming from a multi-cultural family, my parents always mixed different traditions, which made our Christmas a bit different from everyone else’s. …
“Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquility.” — Dalai Lama (Nobel Prize Lecture)
Mathieu Ricard had just finished his Ph.D. studies in molecular genetics, and from the outside life seemed good. Yet the Frenchman felt that something fundamental was missing. The everyday existence in his hometown of Paris was stimulating, but somehow not enough. A feeling of dissatisfaction grew stronger and stronger, eating away at his psyche.
At 26 years of age, he made a radical move. Quitting his job, and his country, Ricard decided to head over to Darjeeling in India to discover the meaning of life. Finding himself in full view of the mighty Himalayas, he started studying Tibetan Buddhism under Kangyur Rinpoche, a great master in that tradition. …
On the 15th of December 1970 something momentous happened. The Venera 7 spacecraft landed on the surface of Venus, becoming the first human-made object to land on another planet. The landing only confirmed what everyone already knew: Venus was a forbidding place.
The view that scientists had of Venus had not always been like this. In the 19th and early-20th centuries, many people had very romantic notions of the planet. Venus was considered a virtual twin of our own planet Earth by early astronomers. In their imagination, it was a lush, tropical world full of exotic plants and animals.
However, when the instruments got better in the mid-20th century, the harsh reality emerged. Venus is Earth’s twin but from hell. The atmospheric pressure on the surface is 92 times the sea-level pressure on Earth. The temperature gets up to over 500 degrees Celsius. Its atmosphere is ruled by what has been described as a runaway greenhouse effect. …