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Monday, May 30, 2011

Attitudes for Happy Life

I just finished reading a fantastic book-Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin. The book offers a systematic approach to becoming a better thinker and a better decision maker. It synthesizes thinking of two of my heroes- Charlie Munger and Charles Darwin. 

The book gives you fundamentals from various disciplines- biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and psychology and then shows you how they are applied to reality. The core idea of the book is to understand that there 28 common misjudgments people make, why we make them, and if we just learn to avoid them, we will be much better decision makers and will live better lives. And, it also outlines guidelines to better thinking. 

One of the guidelines of better thinking is better attitudes. I think that changing attitudes can do wonders for people. Following are the attitudes for better living adapted from the book: 

1. Life is long if we know how to use it. 
  • Focus on what you know 
  • Don't waste time 
  • Love what you do or do what you love 
Ask yourself: What is my nature? What motivates me? What is my tolerance of pain and risk? What has given me happiness and unhappiness in the past? What things and people am I a comfortable with? What are my talents and skills? Do I know the difference between what I want and What I am good at? Where do I have an edge over others? What are my limitations? 

2. Be honest 

Listen to the words of Mark Twain: "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." 

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom- Thomas Jefferson. 

3. Act as an exemplar 

As you rise in the society, you have a big duty as an exemplar. It is the best way to teach ethics. 

4. Treat people fairly 

Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment- Lao-Tsu

5. Don't take life too seriously

Life is too important to be taken seriously- Oscar Wilde 

  • Have perspective. View failure as learning experience. 
  • Have positive attitude. 
  • Do what you enjoy. 
6. Have reasonable expectations 

Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed- Benjamin Franklin 

Munger's iron prescription for life: 

Whenever you think that some situation or some person is ruining your life, it is actually you who are ruining your life...Feeling like a victim is perfectly disastrous way to go through life. If you just take the attitude that however bad it is in any way, it's always your fault and you just fix it as best as you can- the so-called "iron-prescription"- I think that really works. 

7. Live in the present 

The superior man does not waste himself on what is distant, on what is absent. He stands in the here and now, in the real situation- Confucius 

8. Be curious and open-minded. Always ask "why" 

Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing- Thomas Henry Huxley

The book ends with the following quote:-) 

I confess that I have been as blind as a mole, but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn at all- Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle in The man with the Twisted Lip)