Zoe Meditations: Mastery, Giving & Human Nature

Welcome to Zoe Meditations, where every week, I will summarize a few ideas that will help you live greater, love better and laugh more. 

This week, I would like to specifically share some ideas on mastery, giving and human nature. And before we start, I would like to share an advice that might be useful in preventing Corona:


  1. Find a role model: According to journalist Daniel Coyle in his book Talent Code, one of the fastest ways you can learn new things is to find a role model. Someone who has mastered your craft/industry and pay attention to how they do the things they do. You can try to even go deeper by trying to understand their thinking process, ritual, beliefs and values. Nothing is impossible to find with the internet.

    For example, when I first started my blog, I would often identify one or two bloggers who write very well and try to understand their writing process. I would copy their work on a notebook and break down their writing style. At the same time, I also listen to podcasts or read articles in which my favorite authors were being interviewed. They in a sense have become my virtual role models.

  2. Givers, takers and Matchers: According to psychologist and writer Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, the world’s population can be broken down into three categories: takers, givers and matchers.

    Like their name suggests; takers take more than they give, they put their interest first before others. Givers like to give more than they get, they are others focused. While Matchers strive to balance their giving and getting, they operate on the principle of fairness.

    I think this giver, taker and matcher model is relevant because they will help us decide if contributing to a particular person/group of people is worth your time.

  3. The myth of the ideal life: According to Zen writer Charlotte Beck in her book Everyday Zen, we’re all looking for an ideal life and this ‘looking’ is the source of most of our unhappiness.

    She said, “When we realize that the point is not the search, but the distress and unease which motivate the search, we will realize that searching outside ourselves is not the way to happiness.”

    Eventually, all search leads to disappointment, for everything on earth will not be as perfect as our ideal. So stop searching and just be, do everything as an end to itself.

  4. Stoics’ method of developing characters: According to writer Massimo Pigliucci, a life well lived grows out of a good character. Like mastering anything, we develop characters by building habits and imitate a role model.

    Benjamin Franklin famously kept a journal to record how he has acted throughout the day. He had a list of virtues that he wanted to practice and everyday, he measured how well he performed those virtues.

    Lastly let no person of evil character discourage you from developing your character. Pigliucci said, “Few men became evil naturally, they usually do so because they have not acquired enough wisdom to understand their evil ways. So show compassion and treat them with understanding.

  5. The rider and the elephant: One of the best metaphors for our brain is that of Rider and Elephant. (This metaphor was illustrated in the book Switch, Happiness Hypothesis and many others).

    According to scientists, our brains are composed of two parts: the thinking brain and the feeling brain. If the feeling brain is the elephant, the thinking brain is the elephant rider.

    Rider can consult the elephant where to move, but it is the elephant that makes all the move. And the worst part is, the rider also likes to play the lawyer. It likes to explain away the elephant’s actions, even if the elephant is acting out of the rider’s advice.

    The best riders know how to distract and coax the elephant to move. They understood their elephants’ weakness and used it to move them to the place they wanted to go. Understanding this is the key to self mastery.

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I'm a happiness blogger who writes about philosophy for living strong, loving unconditionally and laughing more.

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