Fixer or thrower?

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There’s a famous story about how a journalist once asked a couple, “How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?”
“We were born in a time when if something was broken we would fix it, not throw it away.”

They implied that kids nowadays are more tempted to throw away whatever is broken without considering fixing it, and Forbes did mention something about Millenial leaders being impatient. It makes sense of course, since we live in a world where everything is available at our fingertips. We are a generation hooked on methods of instant gratification. We want everything now..and if not now, then yesterday.

Recently I wrote a piece where I said, “We are all wounded, but maybe we need to think of ourselves in terms of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing cracks with pieces of gold so that the broken is more beautiful than the new.”

That referred to ourselves. But what if we find ourselves in broken careers or broken relationships… Do we work hard to fix it or do we throw it away? How do we decide?

1. Let the past whisper the answer to you

-Find out your default reaction.

The most obvious scientific way to approaching this is to study the past and find your default reaction. Are you a fixer or a thrower? There is a quote that says, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So from past behavior, what has been your default reaction? To run away at the first sign of danger or to try and fix something but then end up with the thing in your hand despite the fact that it has obviously outlived its usefulness?

-Has your default reaction served you?

In other words, do you find yourself thinking, “Maybe I should have stayed longer. Maybe it could have worked out if I only tried harder. I didn’t give it my best shot…”

There’s no point for regrets of course, since what’s done is done. But you need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if your default reaction – to run or stay – has served you.

-If it has served you (and sometimes that is the case), then I think you’re okay to run when you run but if it hasn’t then maybe you need to up the dial a bit and raise your patience threshold because you’re a bit too impatient.

2. The ROI method

Measure your return on investment, and I’m not talking about taking out a calculator and crunching out numbers (though some of you nerds might be tempted to do that). But look into the effort you put into trying to fix the situation and measure it against the progress you are making into actually fixing it. Sometimes our effort lead to monumental leaps, which is all good and well. But when you feel like you’re blowing air into a torn balloon and the only thing the balloon seems to be doing is flapping and making noise…then it’s about time to call it quits. I’ve written about this in details previously. 

3. Let it sort itself out

A professor once made a remark about how some problems sort themselves out after a while when you let them be. The funniest part about that remark was its ending, “Like email.” It was funny because it was not expected. We live in a world where email was the one thing that usually doesn’t sort itself out on its own but we learned not to send him emails about important things throughout the semester. My point is, there are some situations where the deterioration is organic. You don’t have to make an effort to fix a broken thing, destroy it or simply walk away from it. All you have to do is wait and the deadline will zoom right past and it will expire. Why I mention it is because we’ve turned into a generation of “Oh my God we have to do something about this!” that we don’t see there is an option out there and that option is to actually DO NOTHING.

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Intersecting Orbits

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Expect to be disappointed by people. Even if they were your family or your closest friends. Inherently, we are driven by selfish needs and desires. At some level, our minds find themselves calculating, “What’s in it for me?” (Whatever it is)
The secret us to expect it and not to assume that just because you’re in someone’s orbit, their life somehow revolves around you. It doesn’t. It probably just revolves around themselves. And that’s okay.
Because at some level you’re the same. So don’t let the magnetic field of your star to greatly influence another. But somehow let the orbits intersect so the resulting pattern is much more beautiful than each individual orbit.
So expect to be disappointed.
Just don’t let it affect you.
About the image: I got the image online though I forget the source. I’m not sure how true what’s written is but I found it interesting.


The Masks People Wear…Again

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Sometimes I find myself thinking that your friend’s answer to the question, “How are you?” defines the level of relationship especially if they’re having a bad day. If you two were really close and they were having a bad day, they would tell you, “I’m having a bad day but I don’t want to talk about it,” and you would understand. It wouldn’t effect your relationship. But if you’re not that close and you are honest about not wanting to talk about it, they might take offense, thinking, “They don’t trust me enough to talk about it.” That’s why it’s easier to just say, “I’m fine,” and leave it at that.

In general, there are two types of masks people wear (I can imagine a collective groan from you, Oh no, there she goes again since I’ve written about it here and here ), but anyhow…

There are those that are meant to be deceitful. They’re associated with cheating, lying, and essentially projecting a false image of oneself so others would approve of them. Then there are those you wear as a courteous move in order not to bother the world with your problems. Basically, you don’t want people to keep on bombarding you with ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and so you learn to hide under this mask. Which is not particularly that bad because our brain cells process tens and millions of thoughts, and having us project our thoughts incessantly can be both tiring for us and the poor listener. 

However, the existence of all these masks show you the standard depth (or not) of relationships nowadays. To really be friends with someone is to expose yourself, be vulnerable, and yet I guess we can concede that due to many disappointments it’s not always good to put yourself in that situation until the person proves to be trustworthy. So masks are easier to wear and take off when it’s appropriate. 

Then there is technology redefining relationships. It builds what could be called a virtual (online) mask. It can be deceitful and/or courteous. With virtual masks you can hide behind usernames, passwords, blogs and twitter handles and this is what I’m doing right here.

I personally find myself thinking about how technology seems to give us a false sense of connection. When I was young , I still remember how ‘calling home’ meant collecting coins, walking all the way to the call-box and screaming so people at the other side would hear us. But the people we called weren’t many. They were mainly relatives. And we called them on important occasions. Eid, wedding, …etc. Now years later, all it takes is a few taps on this device and you are immediately connected to people thousands of miles away…and you don’t have to scream (even though the older generation still do, but you get my drift). However, look at how long our list of contacts is. Just saving a number to your phone gives you the opportunity to immediately connect with them through whatsapp. And yet, how many of us really do? And when we do, how many of us go beyond the polite courtesies? If there is a story that needs to be told, calling works better. And even that removes the body language from the equation, so the impact isn’t as much as it would be if you can actually see people’s faces reacting to whatever you’re saying.

I was also thinking about how unfortunately dating has become so common in the Arab world nowadays despite it being unacceptable religiously. What I really don’t understand about people who get into it is how much can you really know somebody before marriage? Even if a couple has been together for so long (let’s say the eight years it takes for high school and university), one really can’t know a person completely until they’re married to them. The late-night phone calls and the outings…these are all controlled environments that help advance the plot and highlight specific character traits that the two sides intend on showing. However, when situations happen that really tests relationships after marriage, they end up breaking down completely at the seams, because they discover that this person they thought they loved before marriage has changed. But that makes you wonder if they have really changed or would that be the sound of the mask striking the floor as it is pulled off?

Think about it.
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Well-Intended but Bad Advice

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So the other day I ran into one of my friends and in the middle of the conversation she said something interesting, about how sometimes you need to stop listening to the people giving you advice because they are giving you advice based on their perspective, not your own. Which made me think, it’s true. A lot of times, when we give well-intended advice, it’s based on our own experiences in life. How many times do we ask questions and get clarifications before tailor-making advice that suits the other person and not ourselves? How many times do we repeat something so much pretending to convince the other person when we are actually convincing ourselves?

Take for example people who discourage you while you pursue an exciting new idea, saying ‘things won’t work out’. Not everybody has your best interest at heart. Sometimes such advice is given out of pure jealousy, because such people never had the zeal to implement an idea they had, so they don’t want to see you try and – God forbid – succeed. But sometimes, the advice is given with good intentions. Maybe the person got disappointed by something and they don’t want you to go through that disappointment.

So the next time we want to give advice, we need to stop and reflect on whether what we are going to say is going to suit them or us. We need to give them advice with their best interests at heart not ours.

Alternatively, just state a liability disclaimer or stay quiet.

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