Category Archives: Relationships

Birthday

Last night, I stayed up until past midnight, meditating. I wanted to be fully aware and mindful when the clock struck twelve because today, is my birthday.

I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but lately I’ve can’t help but feel melancholic whenever I think about them. Not that I’m old, far from it, but every year it is a reminder of the things I haven’t done and how time is ticking on.

There’s so much I want to accomplish, and when I count them, I realise that I probably don’t have enough years of my life to do them all. But I’m reminded by an extract from one of my a work by Lucius Seneca – ‘On the Shortness of Life’:

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested”.

I find writings like this quite lifting, and one of my favorites of all time is an essay written by Edmund N. Carpenter, age 17, in June 1938. He was a graduate of Harvard who would go on to win the Bronze Star for his service in World War II and to a civilian career as an attorney. He died on Dec. 19, 2008 at age 87 and is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren. It’s pretty long, if you don’t have time to read it, I definitely recommend clipping it for later and then skipping to the bottom. But I think he pretty much sums up what I want my entire life to be about.

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It may seem very strange to the reader that one of my tender age should already be thinking about that inevitable end to which even the paths of glory lead. However, this essay is not really concerned with death, but rather with life, my future life. I have set down here the things which I, at this age, believe essential to happiness and complete enjoyment of life. Some of them will doubtless seem very odd to the reader; others will perhaps be completely in accord with his own wishes. At any rate, they compose a synopsis of the things which I sincerely desire to have done before I leave this world and pass on to the life hereafter or to oblivion.

Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me. I do not aspire to become as famous as a Napoleon and conquer many nations; but I do want, almost above all else, to feel that I have been an addition to this world of ours. I should like the world, or at least my native land, to be proud of me and to sit up and take notice when my name is pronounced and say, “There is a man who has done a great thing.” I do not want to have passed through life as just another speck of humanity, just another cog in a tremendous machine. I want to be something greater, far greater than that. My desire is not so much for immortality as for distinction while I am alive. When I leave this world, I want to know that my life has not been in vain, but that I have, in the course of my existence, done something of which I am rightfully very proud.

Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others. Friendship, we all agree, is one of the best things in the world, and I want to have many friends. But I could never die fully contented unless I knew that those with whom I had been intimate had gained real happiness from their friendship with me. Moreover, I feel there is a really sincere pleasure to be found in pleasing others, a kind of pleasure that can not be gained from anything else. We all want much happiness in our lives, and giving it to others is one of the surest ways to achieve it for ourselves.

Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment. By traveling in countries other than my own I hope to broaden and improve my outlook on life so that I can get a deeper, and more complete satisfaction from living. By mixing the weighty philosophy of China with the hard practicalism of America, I hope to make my life fuller. By blending the rigid discipline of Germany with the great liberty in our own nation I hope to more completely enjoy my years on this earth. These are but two examples of the many things which I expect to achieve by traveling and thus have a greater appreciation of life.

Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love. At my young age I know that love, other than some filial affection, is probably far beyond my ken. Yet, young as I may be, I believe I have had enough inkling of the subject to know that he who has not loved has not really lived. Nor will I feel my life is complete until I have actually experienced that burning flame and know that I am at last in love, truly in love. I want to feel that my whole heart and soul are set on one girl whom I wish to be a perfect angel in my eyes. I want to feel a love that will far surpass any other emotion that I have ever felt. I know that when I am at last really in love then I will start living a different, better life, filled with new pleasures that I never knew existed.

Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.

With this last wish I complete the synopsis of the things I want to do before I die. Irrational as they may seem to the reader, nevertheless they comprise a sincere summary of what I truthfully now believe to be the things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life. As I stand here on the threshold of my future, these are the things which to me seem the most valuable. Perhaps in fifty years I will think that they are extremely silly. Perhaps I will wonder, for instance, why I did not include a wish for continued happiness. Yet, right now, I do not desire my life to be a bed of roses. I want it to be something much more than that. I want it to be a truly great adventure, never dull, always exciting and engrossing; not sickly sweet, yet not unhappy. And I believe it will be all I wish if I do these things before I die.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.

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If I didn’t write down my thoughts, I think my head would explode. I’m so lucky to have readers like you to share my ideas with. Minimal Student has helped me grow into the kind of person I want to be. Not that I’m there yet, wherever there may be, but like at said at the beginning of MS, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the adventure. I would be so happy if you can find even just a few of the future posts to come on MS inspiring, helpful, motivating, useful, poignant or memorable.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Since it’s my birthday, I would be elated if you could share Minimal Student by hitting the share button or emailing a link to a friend. Thank you.

Dealing with Difficult People

When I first came to university, I strove really hard to be a positive and friendly person. Everyone does,  because that’s how to make friends, which is especially important since you are going to be spending a lot of time with some of the people you meet, at least a year, perhaps even more.

My immediate social response to almost everyone was automatically positive, because I wanted to be friends with everyone I met. But after a while, I began to discover new things about people that weren’t so positive. I found certain people to complain too much, or to be unreliable, arrogant or untrustworthy.

So what do you do when the honeymoon is over and you’re stuck with people that irk you?

You realise you can’t change them. I know, it’s not a fix, but it’s the truth. People aren’t going to change just because you disapprove.

If you really can’t take it, just drift away. You may find that people are much more tolerable in small doses. If you continue to have negative feelings, they may get a bad vibe off of you, which means that they come to think of you as you do of them. In that case, move away completely, it may not be the easiest task, but it’s better than allowing conflict to bottle up.

Another approach is to lead by example. Not that people will necessarily begin to copy you, but if you act like the kind of people you would love to be surrounded by, eventually you will attract those kind of people.

I heard once that you are the sum of your five closest friends. It’s up to you to decide what you add up to.

Greatness and Impermanence

Colleges and universities are full of examples of people wanting to make it. They want their names to be written down in history. They want to be remembered for the great things they wrote, the great things they discovered or the great things they built.

Just take a look around you at the names of the buildings and libraries. They were paid for by people who wanted their names to be remembered long after they are gone.

But, as great as they were, did they realise that nothing can ever be remembered forever? That everything in life is impermanent and constantly changing?

Nothing really belongs to us. Our favourite pair of shoes are only in our possessions, until they become worn or lost. Our bikes and cars are only ours until they are stolen, sold or passed on. Even our names are not really ours because they are just labels attached to our physical bodies – which will eventually be gone too.

And yet, some people dedicate their whole lives to financial or intellectual greatness, at what cost? So that a few generations of people will remember them. But what will happen when those people forget? Was your life wasted?

There isn’t an answer or solution to impermanence. After all, everything is impermanent except for impermanence itself. So, what can you do?

You can be the best that you can be, now. Live life to your full potential, discover and write great things, cultivate amazing relationships, help people, be inspired, inspire others and don’t worry about after. Just think about what you can do to make life better for people today, and do it.

If you live a good life, other people will know it, and maybe they’ll write it down, but the most important thing is that you did your best, and that is something nobody can take away from you.

5 Great Habits of Successful Students

keysuccessIf you look at the kind of people who have achieved ‘success’ in their lives, presidents, Olympians, millionaires, great artists, world leaders, you will find that there are a few things they all have in common.

Now, there probably isn’t a secret ingredient to success (if you find one, let me know) but rather ‘success’ as most people see it, is a result of combining great habits that incrementally lead to a successful and fulfilling life.

I’m no expert, nor am I ‘great’, ‘successful’ or ‘perfect’, far from it. These are simply the habits that I have incorporated, or at least planning/trying to in my life because I know that I can become a better person by doing so.

1. Wake up early.
There’s a feeling you get about the peaceful silence of the early morning that you can’t feel at any other time of day. It’s the feeling that you are the only person in the world, solitary and ready to take on the world, whilst everyone else is sound asleep. When nobody else is awake, there can be no distractions, which makes it ideal for focussing. Combined with the fact that (hopefully) you had a good night’s sleep, your mind should be feeling calm and clear. Early morning is also a great time to practice some meditation.

This is a habit that requires discipline and dedication. It can be hard to wake up early after a late night out, but you don’t have to do it everyday if you don’t have to. Waking early is supposed to clear your mind, not make you feel grungy of uncomfortable. Sleeping a little earlier the night before can help too, if you really want to start waking up early, just try 20 minutes earlier, and build up from there. You won’t regret it.

2. Stay healthy. For some reason, it’s easy to forget to stay healthy, especially as a student. You have a deadline, so you stay up late, your bank balance is flashing red so you buy something ready-made and cheap, and social law dictates that drinking is a minimum requirement to be cool.

Most of these can’t be helped, and because they are pressing and urgent, they get bumped up to the top of the priority list. Your body, on the other hand, is stays almost silent. It can’t shout or persuade or threaten, so it slowly suffers whilst you put other things first. The only way it can tell you it’s suffering is by that tiredness you feel during the day, or that headache you feel the ‘morning after’.

Your body is your tool to life. Imagine if you didn’t have one, you wouldn’t be able to speak, hear, see…you wouldn’t be able to experience the great things in life, so why not take care of it? Eat well and exercise.

3. Learn new things. Life is what you make of it, and if you just stick with the things you know, it isn’t going to be much fun. The fact that you are at university is a good step towards the right direction, but there are so many opportunities that universities offer, don’t let them pass you by. Read books, join societies and try out new things. Step out of your comfort zone. Be careful not to overwhelm your timetable, but for certain things try to think of them as part of your timetable. Expand your horizons, you get out of life what you put in.

4. Be proactive. Great people seek their own opportunities. They don’t wait for them to fall on their laps. If you want something, go and get it, it probably won’t come to you. The great presidents didn’t get their seats because they sat around at home, the great Olympians didn’t get their amazing bodies from watching it on TV and the great writers and musicians didn’t create their art from just daydreaming about it. Go out and do it, even if it is just a tiny step towards the right direction. Do something today that will move you towards your goals.

5. Be compassionate. Often we forget about the people that surround us everyday and how much they shape who we are. Even perfect strangers on the street have an impact on your life, whether you realise it or not. When people hurt you, you want to push them away, but it will only hurt you more in the long run, being alone is one of the most terrible feelings in the world. Real, true and genuine relationships are the stuff of life.
Be kind. Forgive. Smile. As Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier”. That is what success really is.

Further Reading
I found a fantastic post about how to cultivate greatness via the Daily Mind. Many of the ideas I have are shared here.

Do you have any other ideas about what it takes to be a successful student? Share your ideas below.

5 Ways to Cut Down on Social Networking

This is a subject that particularly relevant to students. How much time does social networking suck out of your life? An hour a day? A week? You already know you should cut down, here’s how.

1. Turn off notifications.
One of the biggest disturbances to work is getting notifications via email or instant messenger. Most of these things don’t have to be dealt with straight away, so turn off instant notifications if these make you click through and waste another half hour replying and checking around.

2. Refuse invites.
If you receive an invitation for a new social network, consider refusing the invite, at least until you know how many of your friends will join it. But then again, even if a lot of them are on it, will they use it in the long term? Because if not, then what is the point of joining another site and making a new profile when the one you have now will do just fine? Pause for a moment before blindly clicking yes to invites and signing up. Also think twice about sending invites out to friends on your email contact list when you join a new social networking site. You could be roping them in into the same dilemma that you are in right now.

3. Block out time.
This can work both ways, either block out time for work, or block out time to deal with social networks if you really have to. Choose a time when your brain is least productive, such as in the late evening if you are a morning person or vice versa. Leave all of the maintaining until this time of the day. Knowing that you will have time to deal with everything later should free up your mind to do what is really important right now.

4. Delete old accounts. I wasn’t of the Friendster generation, but I know that there are still old accounts floating about on it that people haven’t checked in years. Kind of like boxes in the loft – they don’t get in the way, but they’re still there, and totally useless, so why not get rid of them? The same goes for social networks you haven’t used in a year or more. If you haven’t even checked it in that long, then maybe you won’t for another year or two, so delete it now before you get roped back into it, or someone finds something embarrassing on it from a while back.

5. Connect in the real world.
Get out of your room and hang around with your room-mates. Cook up a dinner, or call up a fellow classmate and have a chat. Do something that involves real life interaction. One of the reasons why people interact so much on social networks is because they don’t in real life. So the best cure is to, well, go out and do it in real life. Use social networking to keep in touch with old friends/family or connect with new people but not as a substitute for a real life relationship.

Do you have any handy tips to keep social networking at bay?