Category Archives: Self-Actualization

In the shadow of leaves

“We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling. — Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, “The Book of the Samurai” Continue reading

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Doubling down

One winter in college I was visiting Paris, sitting at the bistro near my hotel just watching people. An American couple came in and the husband, in an accent I would best describe as “Chicago detective” (the word “Paris” came out sounding like “Pears”), called the waiter and tried to get “Two diet cokes”. The waiter in classic Parisian style, pretended not to understand what the man was saying. “Can you repeat, Monsieur”, he asked in French. The husband, in classic American style, only spoke louder, adding, “I know you know what I’m talkin’ about here”. The waiter, whom I had heard speak English to some women earlier, continued to feign interest in the conversation saying, “Faites un bel effort, Monsieur.” (make a beautiful effort). Continue reading

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The happy nomad

Since I started writing on UnboundedLife, I’ve given a thought a lot to what freedom is and what it means in the context of human nature. One theme that I’ve come back to repeatedly is mobility; designing a life from a purposeful future, versus living out an extension of the past. It’s a lofty idea that is easy to talk about but as narrow as the razor’s edge to walk. Last month I was planning to write about how I walk it in terms of the life I’m choosing, but I found myself preoccupied with painful events of the recent past. I felt like until I had honestly moved beyond the sadness of re-experiencing this loss, it would be inauthentic to write about living into a self-chosen future. Kind of like an overweight personal trainer talking about losing weight. Continue reading

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All that we keep

This week I’ve been devoting considerable mental bandwidth to wrestling with yet another paradoxical facet of my human nature. On the one side is my desire for simplicity. I did a stint as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka years back, that’s how much I dig the minimalist lifestyle. But this ascetic existence didn’t really work out for me in the end, as I also love stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but nice stuff. It’s hard to be a renunciant with a Brooks Brothers card, but it is possible to reconcile this contradiction in a way that allows us to enjoy all the pleasures of material wealth, without indulging in it for its own sake. Continue reading

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Metaphysical gravity

I recently wrapped up a personal leadership seminar with an American corporate client in Beijing, and during a conversation about values, one of my students asked me, what did I value the most? Before I could think about it, I said, “Mobility.” Like the old SAT strategy, your first answer is usually your best answer, so then I thought, how was it that mobility had beat out core values contenders like family, health, love, compassion and spirituality. Here’s what I came up with… Continue reading

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Taking the lead

There’s a voice calling you. It’s usually inaudible; drowned out by the television, the buzz of florescent lighting in the office, the quiet roar of tires on the freeway. Sometimes it’s a far away whisper, other times, the voice is present and urgent. It conjures up visions that tug at your mental sleeves. This is the voice of your future and it says: find your way here. Continue reading

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What I’ve got coming to me

What are you worth? This isn’t a question about the material assets you’ve accumulated, or your earning potential. I’m asking about self-worth; your belief in your value as a human being and your worthiness to be happy. Because in this life, you only get what you think you deserve. Continue reading

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