Calm

Calm, as a quality, is one I’ve been attracted to for the longest time. We tend to be attracted to qualities we don’t possess ourselves. And, calm is no exception in my case.

Looking back at the past 3 years, however, I’ve observed growth in my ability to be calm. Even if I have a long way to go before it shows up in every aspects of my life, I found myself reflecting on what drove this growth.

I think learning of any kind typically comes from 3 sources – from reflecting on your own experiences, from books / synthesized information that you read and from people you meet. And, I think this growth in my ability to summon calm has come from each of these three. But, I think there have been 2 important drivers that have reinforced each other.

The first is confidence. Confidence has been an important overarching theme over the years on this blog. I started writing here because I believed I was becoming too insecure for my own good. My hypothesis was that writing everyday and sharing my failures would help me put things in perspective. And, it undoubtedly did. Confidence, I’ve come to realize, is about consistently acting from wholeness and not from our wounds. Practicing it requires acceptance of your insecurities, self awareness and thoughtfulness. It doesn’t come easy. In my case, for example, I needed to disengage from a relationship that seemed to only serve one function – reminding me of my insecurities.

The second driver is perspective. If confidence is about consistently acting from wholeness, perspective makes it easier for us to get in touch with that wholeness. I’d attribute most of the perspective I’ve acquired in the past 3 years as a compound effect of writing every day for nearly a decade. I’ve written through challenging times and good times over the years. And, I’ve finally begun to understand that “you never know if a good day is a good day.” Things have a way of working out, or not. Trying to second guess how life will turn out is a waste of our time. We’re better off plugging away.

I’ve shared a note from Seth’s “The Icarus Deception” in the past.

“One of the things the professional artist gives up is the thrill of the manic high. I used to be manic, about twenty years ago, when there was a sliver of something working. Things were really brutal at work, with rejections and near-business-death experiences coming daily, and I grabbed hold of any positive feedback really tightly.

Now, I’m delighted to say. not so much. Which means the highs aren’t as high. The successes are about the privilege of doing more work, not about winning. When my Kickstarter project for this book met its funding goal in less than three hours. I didn’t do the line-kicking dance reserved for TV celebrations. Instead. I took out my laptop and got to work. That is the greatest privilege I can imagine.”

I vividly remember reading this note on a flight 5 years ago and wondering – “Wow, what must that feel like?”

I have a better idea now. I’ve not read too much stoic philosophy but have read enough to understand that this is what it is about. And, from my limited experience of this in the recent past, I can attest to the fact that it feels great.

We spend most of our lives in the process of doing stuff. Success is when we enjoy that process. Wins and losses just exist tell us if our process is right. They are signal – nothing more, nothing less. Confidence involves being our best self and acting from wholeness whether we’re on an up or a down. It comes from understanding that even this will pass. Perspective involves reminding ourselves that we never know if a good day is a good day. The combination of the two helps us keep a level head, roll up our sleeves and get back to work on building a life we consider worth living.

There is really no greater privilege than that.

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