Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
Location: Brussels, Belgium
The mountain looks intimidating. You’re chilled to the bone as you make the final ascent. You didn’t think you were prepared for this moment but you wanted to push yourself to the physical limit. You made this hike not because it was easy but because it was hard. In order to understand your mentality and physicality better, you had to put yourself to the test.
There’s no other way to know what you are capable of than to test yourself and to do it often. It does not matter if you are cold, you are tired, you are hungry, you are sweaty, or you are sleepy, there are times in life when you must simply crave discomfort because you know deep down that you will be more fulfilled from pushing yourself than from having played it safe.
Imagine being on the side of that same mountain and you are rock climbing to get your way to the top. Each move that you make must be analyzed quickly so you don’t make a mistake. It’s likely that you will have a harness or some kind of restraint to catch you if you fall but that’s not always the case. You’re under a large amount of emotional stress and personal discomfort but you feel invigorated when you successfully climb or hike your way to the top. You’ll never regret those times when you put yourself out of your comfort zone especially when you are able to push yourself past those previously held limits that you thought you had.
There is no such thing as a challenge-free life. Putting yourself out there is going to be uncomfortable and you are going to be vulnerable. However, you may find that you will be the most fulfilled emotionally and physically when you challenge yourself. Discomfort as a concept may seem unappealing but it is in those moments or those times of discomfort where we advance the most.
Having the means of comfort may give short-term happiness but it is definitely unlikely to lead to long-term fulfillment. The only way to achieve satisfaction or fulfillment is to acclimate yourself to dealing with discomfort and being able to overcome it again and again. Being able to handle uncertainty will set you apart from other people and give you a level of maturity that will make you a stronger and more resilient person.
Discomfort does not only show up in the form of physical challenges but also in the realm of mental obstacles. Keeping your mind active by putting it to the test will improve you in numerous ways. Whether it’s reading a 400-page book, writing a research paper, or studying a foreign language, these mental challenges will definitely cause some discomfort and that’s a good thing. These personal projects will be very uncomfortable at first, but you will notice results when you stick with them, little bit by bit, and you’ll realize that the discomfort was worth it because of how far you have advanced with your mental development.
Living a life of ease and pleasure is not going to lead you to be the best person that you can become. Only by overcoming obstacles and meeting challenges will you be able to develop yourself fully. It’s good to kick back every now and then to relax and enjoy life yet that kind of pleasure is temporary. True personal growth lies in craving discomfort in whatever form it may yield the highest rewards for you. Whether it’s running a marathon or climbing a mountain to reach new physical capabilities or to writing a thesis paper for your doctorate or solving a complex physics equation, both our body and our mind need these challenges.
If you are ever feeling lethargic or lost, you should evaluate whether or not you are challenging yourself enough. Giving yourself personal goals to work towards will make you uncomfortable but you will also be able to greater fulfillment and longer lasting happiness. Being able to put yourself out there, use your physical and/or mental abilities, and logically think through and solve problems will get you out of your self-imposed funk.
Having a deeper purpose in life that is fulfilling and meaningful is necessary for everyone to pursue. Everybody will struggle at first to find out what exactly they were meant to do. Instead of doing nothing about it, I think it is best to try out different things that are uncomfortable to find out which challenges make you feel the most engaged and willing to overcome. Doing a bunch of different things to keep yourself active is better than to do nothing at all. Time is limited so it’s best to challenge yourself in a variety of ways first before you settle on the one or two major challenges in life that you want to succeed at.
Craving that discomfort is a necessary part of this part of self-development. Failure is possible and you may not ultimately succeed. However, if you fail, you will learn from having tried your hand at it and you will be the better person for it. Once you try at something, even without ultimate success, you know that you have the ability to take on challenges and eventually you’ll meet them without unease and with greater confidence. It is far better to have failed one hundred times and to have succeeded on your 101st try, then to have failed only once and then give up entirely without trying again.
Many people today shy away from being uncomfortable at all, even for a minute, but this is much to their detriment. Being in discomfort and going through painful times is part of being human. Without experiencing that pain and that discomfort, you won’t be able to become a stronger person. The person who has been through several trials by fire is the person you want around in times of discomfort and distress. You don’t want to be around a person who only indulges in pleasures and shies away from any pain.
Having physical toughness and mental fortitude to meet challenges head on are traits that you should want to make part of yourself for the rest of your life. Putting your fear and your doubts aside to climb that mountain, write that book, learn that language, or solve that Math problem will give you an advantage over others who deny themselves discomfort. You have to want to engage in the discomforts in life because in today’s day and age, it is easier than ever to avoid discomfort. Those who pursue discomfort will be rewarded long after the challenge(s) you set for yourself have been overcome.
How do we define standards? What exactly do they mean to our society and the world as a whole? See, the thing about standards is that if they are not observed by everyone to some degree than what would be the point of having them in the first place. Having standards when it comes to behavior, dress, professionalism, ethics, etc. helps society to function and for people to live productive and healthy lives. Without having standards or not being beholden to anyone else will create a society of winner-take-all or every man or every woman for themselves, which is not only counterproductive but also self-destructive in the long run.
As defined by Dictionary.com, A ‘standard’ is defined as “something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; or an approved model.” It’s a general definition but you can see that creating a standard requires the consent of the society at large. Standards can be difficult or easy to enforce depending on how popular they are but the total absence of standards in different areas of life should be fought against as much as possible. Everybody has different standards but the key to keep in mind is whether a lack of standards or a complete abandonment of standards is making the local community or overall society worse off as a result.
We don’t think about it but basic standards helps create laws, rules, and regulations that keep society running well. When there are no standards in anything whether its’ with business, politics, dress, the environment, etc. then every individual man, woman, and child will suffer in some regard as a result. Another thing to keep in mind is that a lack of standards or standards that are burdensome and counterproductive also cause harm to us as well.
Standards change over time but there are certain ideals and beliefs that I think should stand the test of time. By this I mean that basic manners and politeness should always be observed, presenting yourself well in your outer dress and appearance depending on the setting is crucial, and that you add with basic integrity, decency, and honesty when doing business or leading as a member of your community. Standards over time for these particular areas should not change and should even become stronger so that the next generations do not forget how to act, behave, and be good.
Standards can be relaxed in a number of areas or they can be hardened in other areas depending upon the mood and whims of the larger society but those areas I listed above should be consistent and not be trifled with. When basic manners, integrity, and matters of presenting become optional rather than mandatory, it’s likely that the entire society will feel the ill effects of such an absence of standards rather quickly. Fundamentally, systemic societal issues such as corruption, violence, and poverty, which while they have a wide range of causes are still related to an absence of moral and behavioral standards.
In a free society, standards can most definitely change and be adapted to fit to the times but it has to be with the approval of the majority of those people in that society. Leaving standards to the whims of a few leaders can be cumbersome and even negligent especially if they themselves due not match the standards for which they should follow based on their leadership roles. Standards are best when they are created, managed, and enforced in a democratic fashion and where the majority of people in that society are able to follow those standards.
While we are all individuals, we are all still apart of a collective society and we have to sometimes sacrifice our personal standards when we come up against those standards of the larger society even when we may fundamentally disagree with them. No standard is perfect but if the society has collectively agreed upon those standards, then all of the people must abide by them to the best of their ability. If the standards are to be changed, that should be done over time with the consent of the majority. Even if we don’t like the standards, if no one agrees to them, then they are not standards anymore and society could suffer as a result.
If you don’t like the absence of certain standards or believe that they are too burdensome on you or people that you know, then you need to make the effort and put in the work to change these standards. If you don’t like with how someone is behaving, then you need to make an informed argument as to how that person should behave in a more polite and decent manner. If you see some form of corruption and certain political leaders are letting it slide, then you need to take some responsibility in holding yourself first to a higher standard and then calling out that corruption to get others behind you so that the corruption may end in the future.
Individuals have power in a society with standards but they will fundamentally have less power in a society where there are weak standards or none at all. That is also the case where one sole individual can set standards for everyone else without so much as a protest from others, which is also dangerous and detrimental to society as a whole.
While standards such as for behavior, dress, professionalism, ethics, etc. may not always be popular to uphold, these standards form the backbone of the collective society. With the absence of any sort of standards comes at the behest of laws, rules, regulations, and principles as well. Standards form the base for a civilized society and in their absence; there is no way that a society of individuals can function at all.
When you read this article, think about your own standards and how they came to be in your thinking. Also, think about how important they are to you. Lastly, think about the current standards of your society and how long it took for them to be formed and implemented as well as how important they also are regardless if you agree with their being in existence or not. Standards are not meant to be popular all the time but they are meant to ensure codes of conduct in various manners of life.
The sheer absence of standards leads to an anarchy of sorts that would render polite society meaningless and turn individuals against each other in a collective free-for-all. Understanding the why of standards will make you more likely to improve and better your own existing ones.
We live in a world where the first impression that we give out to others is a key determining factor into what kind of relationship we have with them and how they see us as human beings. I believe that it is naïve in this day and age still to think that first impressions don’t matter at all because they really do matter and if you don’t know how to present yourself in a positive, mature manner, it may affect your life in various negative ways.
Our culture is based around the individual yet we cannot forget that ultimately, you are still tied to other parts of society such as your family, your local community, and your country. Now, one may not care what others think of them and that is their right to do so but your actions, words, habits, and personal dress have an affect on society whether you like it or not. You are not an island unto yourself where you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences that can come of that. We are all part of an overall society and failure to recognize that fact of life will not change this part of human nature.
Whenever you’re out in public meeting new people for the first time, how you dress, how you act, and how you use your spoken language carries a number of effects as to how people will treat you. You never know what kind of relationship whether personal or professional you’ll be able to build with somebody else if you’re not willing to put in that effort. There are numerous opportunities that the average person can miss out on in their daily interactions if they are not actively thinking about presenting themselves in the right fashion.
The key thing to know is that people are always going to judge you when they first meet you and this always happens very rapidly. There are certain ways that you can make yourself stand out in a positive manner which will benefit you in terms of more people will take you seriously and will respect you more. The opposite of that is also true in that if you fail to present yourself in a respectable manner when you meet other people for the first time, there could be a number of negative consequences for you if you don’t learn to change certain bad habits.
In this day and age where people are becoming more and more addicted to technology, especially the smartphone, you can stand out easily if you know how to present yourself. Basic social skills are not being taught as much whether it’s for young people in school or for adults in the workforce. Just a few generations ago, both men and women were taught at a young age how best to present them so they could be taken seriously as individuals who are part of the collective society. To put it simply, we do not teach these social graces, cues, and skills anymore but I’d like to propose a few tips on how to present oneself for the good of yourself and the good of your society.
If you want to be taken seriously, you have to look the part. Everyone has the choice to make in terms of how they dress and look everyday but it is important to keep in mind how that will effect others opinions of you. If you go to an interview for a job that you really want, you have to present yourself professionally. You wouldn’t wear a baseball hat, shorts, and a tank top to an important job interview, right? If you don’t dress the part, it’s a certainty that you won’t get to play the part. Obviously, modes of dress in the workplace are flexible.
An office worker is going to dress differently than a construction worker but even for both jobs, you want to present yourself with an appearance where you’ll be taken seriously. If you put in the bare minimum and your colleagues are putting more effort into their appearance, who is going to get the benefit of the doubt? Your colleagues. A suit and tie isn’t necessary for most jobs these days but you don’t want to be that one person who shows up in flip flops and jeans when everybody else is putting in the effort. There’s a healthy balance that needs to be struck and you want to make sure that you are following the dress code while even going a bit above and beyond to make yourself stand out.
Your appearance is not just about what you wear but how you wear it. Good-fitting clothes, polished shoes, facial and body hair that has been cut groomed or shaved properly; all of these small actions add up that can help you in both your personal and professional life. If you’re not able to take care of your face and body, what does that say about you as a person? It doesn’t say anything positive because the effort really matters and other people will notice when your appearance is on point. Others will see that if you’re able to take care of your appearance, you’ll be able to manage an important coding project, closing that lucrative business deal, or overseeing the construction of a tall skyscraper. When you’re able to take care of yourself first, you’ll be better able to tackle the big projects that you will come across in your professional life.
If you’re worried about how much money it costs to put into your appearance, it really doesn’t cost too much these days. I’m not going to go into exact figures but some new clothes, a haircut, and a nice pair of shoes as your baseline in terms of appearance would cost about $100 here in the U.S. I believe that the return on investment would be much more on that because the clothes and shoes will last you a while and the haircut will be positively noticed by your peers. While you may put $100-200 per month into your appearance, think about how much use or gains that you can get out of this personal investment. I think most people would find that they get a lot out of dressing and looking well when you do the math.
Presenting yourself doesn’t end in terms of taking care of your dress and your grooming. It extends greatly to how you follow social graces and courtesies that keep our society running smoothly. Even if you have had a bad day and don’t feel like extending these courtesies to strangers, try to see it from their perspective. Being polite, respectful, and minding your behavior is an integral part to how you present yourself in public. While graces, courtesies, and customs vary greatly from culture to culture, I have found in my own travels that you should always say ‘hello, please, and thank you’ to win yourself some points. It doesn’t hurt to say ‘how are you?’ or the equivalent in other languages to strike up a conversation with the person making your coffee, serving your food, or cutting your hair.
While there is a trend of people being on their Smartphone, listening to the music through their earphones, and ignoring the world around them, you can be better than that by making an effort to express pleasantries to the people you rely upon in your day to day activities. Social skills take time to develop and they can atrophy if they are not put to good use. Everyone is guilty of being antisocial every now and then, and that’s okay, but it can be a bad habit if you don’t make the effort.
As human beings, we tend to err towards the negative as a biological impulse but it’s really important to try and stay positive. You may not think of it too much but we are all social creatures and the attitude that we display has a contagious effect on to how others act and behave. If you are negative about life constantly and put on a negative attitude to those around you, you should not be surprised when no one wants to hang out with you or even help you. It’s okay to express frustrations about the stress and anxiety of daily life but you have to keep it in check. Things do get better over time and having a positive attitude about life will help you enormously rather than being negative all the time.
With your manners, you also want to go the extra mile. Helping other people feels good and the easiest way to do that is by having good manners. You could help an old lady cross the street, let the women and children off the elevator first (chivalry is not dead yet, ladies), tip a service worker extra if they did a great job, or even wait to let people off the bus and train first before you get on. These actions all display having good manners and will brighten up someone else’s day causing a ripple effect throughout our society. If everybody observed the golden rule of ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated’, our manners and attitude would shift quite a bit.
Sometimes, we don’t have the right attitude or display good manners but it’s good to be remembered of what they are. Unfortunately, there are no schools or institutions anymore that teach these social graces and courtesies to young men and young women, but I do hope that they make a comeback. Without each member of our society trying their best to display good manners and have a positive attitude, there would immediately be dysfunction, chaos, and a torrent of rudeness.
You wouldn’t think about it often but it is the icing on the proverbial cake to be able to present yourself well when it comes to both your eye contact and body language. While these two actions take place subconsciously, if you’re able to be mindful of it at times especially at key moments in your personal and professional life, you will be able to stand out in a great way. Maintaining strong eye contact and confident body language could help you improve your life tremendously. This is especially the case when you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to look them in the eye, keep your head held high, and give them a firm handshake.
Even after you meet them, you want to keep your shoulders back and walk with purpose. I’m not an expert when it comes to body language but I know what not to do in most situations. You want to be keep your legs pointing forward, your head should be at eye level, and you should keep your body open in how you stand and sit. Bad body language like looking down at the floor, having your legs crossed all of the time, folding your arms, and scrunching your shoulders are all bad habits that you are going to be mindful of avoiding. It’s important when presenting yourself to be confident, serious, and even smile a bit to diffuse your own internal stress and anxiety depending on the situation you’re in.
The saying, “Fake it until you make it” is key when it comes to body language. If you practice it enough times, it will eventually be so ingrained in you that you won’t have to act the part anymore. Having strong eye contact and confident body language will set you apart from other people who display the opposite. If you’re looking for that edge in work, business, or aspects of your personal life, you’ll want to be working hard to present yourself well in these two regards.
When you meet strangers for the first time, eye contact and body language are two key things that they’ll notice right off the bat. If you’re not able to create a positive impression with them, it’s likely that you won’t get very far with them professionally or personally. If you have a trustworthy family member or a good friend, it’s beneficial to practice body language and eye contact with them. Once they give you high marks for setting the right tone and finishing it off with a firm handshake, you’ll be able to impress strangers, employers, and even love interests with this overlooked aspect of presenting yourself well.
The main reason why I wrote this article is because I think we have reached the point in society where we pay too little attention to presenting ourselves well. With the absence of rules or standards, society can degrade to a point where it becomes dysfunctional. This comes down to being able to present yourself well to the world in the hopes that it will return the favor to you in one way or another. It’s not just about other people too but it’s about self-respect and doing your best to live up to your own standards and code. Having an overall society made up of individuals who understand that appearances do actually matter but so do manners and body language can help us progress to be fairer, kinder, and more respectful of one another.
Unfortunately, knowing how to present oneself is not taught anymore and hasn’t been for a few generations but I hope with this article that this kind of advice can come back into fashion and spur a good dialogue. How you dress, what you say, and how you act does not stop at you as an individual but ripples out to the rest of your society. If you’re not putting in the effort, why should anyone else do the same? We all have an individual responsibility to present ourselves well because by doing that, the society as a whole can improve in a number of ways by following your example.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been lucky enough to do some good reading. Each of these three books are enjoyable, interesting and which hold different lessons about the state of the world and humanity at large. These three books come highly recommended from myself and are well worth the time invested to read them. If you are looking for a few books to read, as spring becomes summer, below you will see the 7th edition of my book recommendations which highlights Submission by Michel Houellebecq, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and A World in Disarray by Richard Haass.
1.) Submission by Michel Houellebecq is an enjoyable and humorous take on French politics in the 21st The French author is known for his edgy content and his nihilistic take on modern life. Houellebecq is not known for writing about satire and for those who are a fan of his works, this novel was a sharp turn away from the other topics that he usually focuses on. Personally, I haven’t read the other novels associated with this writer but I really enjoyed this satirical look at French politics.
The premise of the novel is that there is a new political crisis in France. In order to stave off a win in the 2022 French presidential elections from Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, the Socialist party and the center-right Union for a Popular Movement party are forced to align with a newly formed Muslim Brotherhood party led by its charismatic leader, Mohammed Ben-Abbes in order to achieve victory as a coalition. The main character, Francois, is a middle-aged Literature professor at the Sorbonne is going through his own mid-life crisis. While he enjoys teaching at the university and cavorting physically with some of his students, he struggles to find meaning in his life and is distraught at the loss of both of his parents. This is on top of the fact that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood party will affect his ability to keep his full pension and be able to keep his job.
On top of the probability of losing his teaching job at the Sorbonne as well as the fleeing of his steady Jewish girlfriend, Myriam, who leaves France for Israel in the face of rising anti-Semitism, Francois contemplates suicide but decides instead to seek refuge in a monastery in the town of Martel. Ironically, Francois, after going through a self-imposed exile for a few weeks, comes to realize that the world didn’t end when the Muslim Brotherhood party takes power. Instead of fighting the changes going on at the Sorbonne, Francois is intrigued by the fact that if he converts or ‘submits’ to Islam, he will be able to still find a prestigious job, keep his lucrative pension, and be able to have a few wives chosen for him since polygamy had become legal in France. The main character, Francois, is a spectator to the changing political landscape rather than an active player.
While this book is known for being controversial, I find it to be full of slapstick humor in making fun of the main character’s overly dramatic take on life. Francois is a mere spectator whose desire for alcohol, food, and sex overrides any core convictions that he may have politically. Mainly, Houellebecq is making fun of French intellectuals who can’t be bothered to invest in them beyond their own hedonistic desires.
His take on the political situation in France is an obvious dramatization and I don’t believe that he was looking to ruffle any feathers. The rise of an Islamic nationalist party in France in 2022 would be completely unrealistic which is what the author was making clear in focusing on the political satire associated with that idea. Overall, it is a witty, entertaining novel, which tells us more about human nature than it does about the precarious state of French politics in the 21st century.
2.) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is one of the best books I have ever read. In all likelihood, this is the kind of book that you can come back to multiple times and still enjoy it. This is not your average history book in that it focuses more on the big ideas and developments associated with each era of human history rather than diving into the endless details and events related to each period. Instead of a 4,000 page behemoth focused on human history, Harari does a great job in condensing the how and why of Homo sapiens into only 400+ pages.
While I was reading this book, it didn’t feel laborious at all and was a real page-turner. Harari’s main argument in the book is that the homo sapien (the modern human) were able to dominate the Earth because of our ability to cooperate and share with each other in large numbers. The downfall of pre-homo sapiens such as the Neanderthals along with various other extinct animals and plants was the result of the Cognitive Revolution, which occurred at around 70,000 BCE.
The exciting developments related to the establishment of shared human myths and imaginary mainstays such as money, religions, human rights, nation-states, etc. directly tied to Homo Sapien culture put sapiens on the path to long-term survival and flourishing. Harari convincingly argues that the history of humanity can be broken down into four parts: the Cognitive Revolution (the development of imagination), the Agricultural Revolution (the formation of collective societies), the Unification of humankind (the rise of empires and nations), along with the Scientific Revolution (the emergence of scientific knowledge) which is the stage where sapiens currently find ourselves in.
Harari believes that the rise of Homo sapiens as a species has had significant consequences on the planet we all inhabit as well as the harsh treatment of animals that has resulted from being at the top of the food chain. Also, while the Agricultural revolution led to the creation of large human societies and eventually sprawling empires, the shift from hunter gathering to farming caused the human diet and lifestyle to suffer as a direct result. Human beings after agriculture became less self-reliant and had to rely on a king, an emperor, or the state itself to provide food, water, and other necessities. Out of all of the developments in human history, the rise of agriculture was a fundamental shift in our thinking, which still affects us in the modern society we all inhabit today.
Overall, Sapiens is an excellent, informative, and timely read that I would recommend to anyone. It’s an easy book to pick up and a hard one to put down. I am currently reading another book of his, which is the sequel to Sapiens, this book and the one that follows it just shows how good of an author and intellectual that Mr. Harari is.
3.) A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Older by Richard Haass is a refreshing take on the topsy-turvy world of international relations in this current period. Mr. Haass, who is currently the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has advised previous U.S. presidents and worked as the Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department during the Bush Administration, is an expert on world affairs who has published multiple books and this one in particular could not be timelier.
While the U.S. remains the most powerful country in the world both economically and militarily, it has started to lose ground in terms of its ability to sway world opinion and events due to failures of U.S. foreign policy in the early years of the 21st century. The lack of success in denuclearizing of the Korean peninsula, the rise of Iran as a regional power in the Middle East, and the mixed results of the East Asia ‘pivot’ from the Obama administration have created a worldwide power vacuum. Also, due to the long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both U.S. prestige and values were harmed by these adventures in the Middle East. Haass argues correctly that the post-WWII order that the United States and its European allies helped create is fraying due to the failure of its leaders, institutions, and policies to maintain stability across the globe.
There are real challenges to contend with that the United States won’t be able to solve on its own. The threat of climate change, the challenge of cyber-security, and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons require a unified approach that has been lacking between the U.S. and its European allies. The events of Brexit, the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ isolationist policies, and the great power rivalries going on between Russia, China, and India have thrown the world in disarray. The days where the U.S. could have great influence and sway over events around the world may be drawing to a close. Haass sees that the U.S. is just one of the great global powers and must be willing to cooperate, collaborate with other powers in order to achieve results when the main issues of today are multilateral in nature.
In order for the world to follow America’s lead, Haass aptly understands that we must get our own house in order first. The rising national debt, the ongoing problems with investing in education, infrastructure, and health care prevent the United States from acting as an example to the rest of the world. A dysfunctional political process as well as a President who doesn’t believe in leading the international, post WWII order are preventing the United States from realizing its full potential as a global power.
For anyone who is new to international relations, A World In Disarray, is an excellent take on the history of the international system after World War II and how did we get to this point where the world seems more chaotic and unstable than ever. Mr. Haass understands the limits of American power and that in order to lead on the world stage; the U.S. must undertake reforms to benefit our own citizens at home. In order to solve complex, multilateral issues, the U.S. must value diplomacy and the relationships that we have with our allies. Where the U.S. used to be the only global superpower, after the fall of the Soviet Union, America is just one of the great powers now. In order to solve the multilateral issues of the 21st century, the United States cannot do it alone and we must be willing to use effective diplomacy and other forms of soft power to create peace and prosperity.
Facts are a tricky thing, but the importance and recognition of them is vital in order to consider yourself a critical thinker. In this era of ‘alternative facts’ and opinionated media, it’s necessary to be able to read, analyze, and think about all of the information that you’ve been taking in and figure out for yourself if it’s truthful or nonsense. In this day and age, opinions are easy to find everywhere but what have become harder to find are the cold, hard facts. The famous expression, “take it with a grain of salt” can be applied to you if you want to be a critical thinker.
The first thing you have to do, as a critical thinker is to be able to sort out the facts from the falsehoods. You should be able to use more than one source of information and before you use those sources of information, you need to verify that they are both unbiased and trustworthy. The evidence that you gather for these facts have to be based off of real sources, who have compiled the information and verified its’ authenticity.
For example, if you’re a Chemistry student and you’re trying to do an experiment on making a chemical volcano, would you choose to get the information from an actual scientist who has their PhD and teaches Chemistry at a local university or would you trust the advice of a best friend in your Science class instead?
While it’s desirable to be a good friend and trust them because they would like to help you most likely, it’s likely their advice will pale in comparison to the Chemistry professor with the PhD who wrote a ‘how to’ article on chemical experiments in the latest edition of ‘Science Weekly.’ If you’re a critical thinker, you would choose option #2 100% of the time because you would like to create an experiment that’s going to be the best that it can be and using your friend’s advice won’t get you to that point.
Regardless of what professional or educational field that you decide to pursue, you’re going to need critical thinking. Being inherently skeptical at first of the information you’re receiving is important to do because you need to be able to discern if what you’re reading, watching, listening to, etc. is factual. In your daily life, you’re going to need to identify prejudice, bias, propaganda, etc. that you’re likely to encounter in your daily life. You have to do your best to discern fact from fiction even if it takes some time. You could decide to ingest every bit of information that you see in the news or at the office as being factual but it would benefit you instead to deep a bit digger by doing your research, verify the source(s), bounce it off other pieces of information to see if there’s a pattern, and then decide if it’s factual.
A true critical thinker is not lazy and does not take shortcuts. He or she goes the extra mile to gather the right information, prioritize it to give it credence in your decision-making, and then recognize, solve the problems in order to move on to the next goal. If you’re in a field where you’re working with data on the computer, you have to be able to interpret it, evaluate it, and then use it for your business or company’s needs. By being able to communicate effectively and clearly is also a necessity when it comes to being able to take those fresh facts you’ve verified and then pass it on to the next person so they know that they’re not being misled by you.
As a critical thinker, it’s also necessary to disregard generalizations made about complex topics, which require in-depth research and analysis. Instead, critical thinking also necessitates the ability to draw conclusions from the evidence and the facts that you have gathered. Then, you have to be able to pass those conclusions on to the right people so they know what’s true and what’s false.
Conclusions that you’ve made in the past can sometimes change in the present or in the future so it’s vital to not be stubborn about your beliefs. Critical thinking requires that you also be flexible in your beliefs especially if you’re able to take in new evidence, and logic. A man or a woman who does not change their views on anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary cannot consider himself or herself to be a true critical thinker. While it can be difficult to let go of your innate biases and prejudices, you still should be open-minded and be able to accept the truth and the facts even if they contradict with yours.
If your mother, someone who you loved and respected, happened to have told you one day that the sky was the color red instead of blue, would you accept her statement at face value or would you go outside of the house to check, verify her statement to see if it was true or false? If you are not a critical thinker and a great son, you would choose option #1 and believe that statement without actually checking to see if it’s true. If you are a critical thinker but still a good son, you would choose option #2 and tell your mother later that the sky is actually blue because you went outside to see its’ color for yourself. Even if your mom might be offended by your conclusion, she would still love and respect you for being a critical thinker as is necessary.
To put it bluntly, there are a lot of people out there in different industries that are not critical thinkers and they’re hoping the same about you. I don’t want to name names but you’re likely to encounter them in your neighborhood, your city, and your city. However, if you’re able to develop the right personal habits and characteristics, you’ll be able to set yourself apart as a real critical thinker rather than just a person who believes what he hears, reads, or listens to all of the time regardless of the source it’s coming from.
Those habits involve being a problem solver, an evidence gatherer, a decision maker, a rational thinker, being able to reason with others, and an inquisitive learner above all else. While critical thinking isn’t mandatory in life, you’ll still go a lot further and succeed more when you put those skills and habits to use when compared to those who don’t. If you’re an open-minded, intelligent, mature, and inquisitive person, you’ll turn out to be a good critical thinker and a positive example for others to follow.
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