Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Success and Happiness


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.
Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.
Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.
Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.
Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.
Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.
Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.

(Chicken Farmers) Teaching in metaphor, the ideas stick in the mind. So it is easier to learn concepts from moral tales. Once upon a time there were two farmers who both owned many chickens. One of them woke up in the morning, collected all the chicken droppings in his basket and brought them home. The other woke up and collected the eggs in his basket. Guess which one was successful? The first stunk up his home with the droppings. The second made some lovely omelette and made his family very happy.

Moral: This is a metaphor for what we bring from the past into our present. Which are you? Do you bring eggs into your present or shit? We learn much much more from past successes than from failure. This is the fundamental lesson: positive attitude.

Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.

(Calculator) Every moment, clearing like a calculator and starting new with empty mind. This is important for teachers to not hold on to opinions of their pupils, so they are aware quickly of the efforts and improvements they make, and the pupils can tell that it does not go unnoticed.
(Prisoners) For those who work with prisoners, they must learn to treat them not as murderers and rapists, but as people who have murdered and raped. Prisoners unable to discard the label from around their neck will more likely re-offend when released.
(The New Buddhist) Someone had just converted to Buddhism and was visiting a friend. He refused a drink saying now he couldn’t drink. “But you’re Buddhist,” said the friend. “That means you can let go!” “Ah, but it’s a different kind of letting go.”

Moral: Success is easy. It just requires a change in perspective. Not “letting go” meaning doing as you please, but letting go of negative emotions and labels, and striving for compassion and goodness.

Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.

(Award) When receiving an award, the humble winner said, “It’s what I do. I don’t deserve it.” The following year, he turned up to the ceremony and the winner used exactly the same words in his speech. But objectively, he could see that the person did deserve it. Why is it so hard to receive praise, while it is so easy to accept criticism?
(Schizophrenic patients) Remarkable success has been had by putting energy and effort into the times when schizophrenic patients are well instead of focusing on the “problem”.
(Dog training) When the dog does the right thing, the trainer jumps up and down in ecstasy and rewards it. The dog can’t help but notice.

Moral: Try the reverse: receive praise with an attitude that you do deserve it and let criticism go. This isn’t being big-headed, it’s being big-hearted. It’s saying that those who chose you were not wrong-headed to do so, and moreover receiving awards is good because it acts as motivation to work hard and do it again. Equally, learn to praise to reinforce desirable behaviour. Make criticism constructive and in a form that is easily digestible.

Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.

(Fertilizer) A man stepped on dog poo. He went home and scraped it off under his apple tree. When he ate the apples the following spring, they were juicier than ever.
(100 strokes of the cat) Punishment for Buddhist monks in Australia.

Moral: The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success. Turn your mistakes into fertilizer for your apple tree and remember when you succeed that it was a direct result of all the things you went through. Fall forwards not backwards. Replace bad habits and thoughts by good habits and thoughts. This is not to say you don’t regret, or feel remorse, but you feel it once, and straightaway you develop strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The regret is not something continuous and wasteful of all the positive energy that could have come from it. Efforts after failure bring true growth. Stimulate all the successful thoughts of the past until they are revitalized. Don’t let others take away your happiness. Laugh at yourself. Sometimes people feel unable to forgive themselves. Confessing and not doing it again are not enough. For them, they must learn compassion, to allow themselves to be happy. This is especially important in relationships, to love and trust and feel worthy and deserving of happiness, and so create a cycle of positive reinforcement, not negative.

Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.

(Powerful Image) A wish is a desire without energy. An intention is a wish with a plan, but will is action with intent until the wish is accomplished. Intent is like a powerful image broadcast from within, and one cannot help but notice its presence.
(Sailing) "'I don't care where we go,' I said, to my own surprise." (Erskine Childers, Riddle of the Sands) It is said that a good day's sailing needs no destination.

Moral: Everything we do comes from the will. Mechanical will is unthinking. Conscious will is a vital force that involves determination and effort, so should be directed wisely. As well as being constructive and feasible, always be sure in your heart that it is right for you or aligned with divine will. Then concentrate on it with courage and faith. The creative power of imagination gives initiative to set out on your path and open your eyes to the possibilities and do things that none have done before. Once you have chosen what to do, concentrate on how you do it and enjoy the experience and the opportunities it offers. Reward the process, not the endpoint. Success for a doctor is not in curing patients. It is in caring for them, and in caring for them they hopefully will be cured.

Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.

(Stillness in Pauses) Suppose I were to speak this to you and in doing so pause unexpectedly, and … ask you to … observe……… your mind in…… the pauses between words. You ….. experience…… empty “waiting in the moment” mind, because you do not….. know when I …… will speak next…. you are in stillness.
(Australian counselor) An American lady had seen every counselor in Los Angeles without success. She went all the way to Australia to see a psychotherapist there, who knowing that everything else had been tried, figured she would need something unconventional. She stilled her mind and as the lady walked into the room, she said to her without knowing why, “I think you should take up playing violin.” The lady had wanted to play the violin as a little girl, but she was not allowed to. There’s a lesson in this: do what you want to do, not what is expected of you. She suggested other things too, and the lady went home and started work on some fantastic projects to help people.
(The Sponge) A dry sponge absorbs. A wet sponge can absorb nothing.

Moral: Be sensitive and mindful to those around you. Learn to be quiet. The mind like a dry sponge to pick up information around you, to take opportunities, widen horizons and connect with people and develop relationships.

Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.

(Staying in the Present) First we obsess over the past. This cannot be changed, so not worth worrying about. Then we worry about the future. The future is made in the present. Once we stop worrying about past and future, we might feel nerves or stress in the present. But this is a waste of energy and how sickness happens, though we often don’t notice it because we are so caught up in past and future. So, we let go of that too. And relax into inner tranquillity.
(The Glass) A glass of water is not very heavy, but the stress comes in holding it for a length of time. The solution is simple: put it down.
(The Menu) A man goes to an expensive restaurant and is presented with a beautiful menu with wonderful golden lettering. He eats the menu and walks out.

Moral: We often work long hours with little result to show for it. This is an inefficient use of the power of mind. Taking breaks makes us much more productive. Putting a problem down, you let the problem rest but you do not rest. You go deep within to realign with your higher Self and return to face the problem before your discrimination is lost. Recognize what works best for you. This is skilful action. Know your priorities. Success is in the doing. Living right is in the practice, not in books or academic theory of philosophy or religion. So now I’m saying all this was a waste of time, right? No, that was a negative thought, of doubt. So let’s put what we’ve learnt to good use immediately and replace doubt with trust. I trust that my writing up this little blog on success will turn out to be of enormous value to me, and even more so to you!

Source: This is adapted from a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm.

On a related note, I also posted a blog called "On Doing Better" from a Buddhist perspective based on another talk I went to.


  1. Okei you've been busy! :)
    (hugs) missed talking to you
    I'm just not feeling too enthusiastic about things these days.

  2. Hugs to you too! You don't have to be enthusiastic about everything, just the things that matter. Oh, darn it, it's so easy (speaking for myself) to get enthusiastic about all the things that don't matter in the slightest. So, I guess we just have to build up that enthusiasm. This is just the blog then to encourage one to do that. (If this is about Arsenal, well, no expectations = no disappointments, though drawing having been 2-0 up against an average side is pretty rubbish.)

  3. True, true. I guess I need to prioritize more. I have too many interests, you know. I miss writing, but I just don't feel too inspired lately.

  4. I was so mad when they practically gave away the two goals to West Ham. Thank goodness Arsenal won against Liverpool last night though, for the Carling cup. Nizam was pretty disappointed, the poor guy... *smirk*

  5. But it's a start! I'm much happier being enthusiastic about pointless things than being enthusiastic about nothing, for that way boredom and depression lie. So, as Shahrizat says, it does seem to come down to priorities.

  6. Inspiration = breath. It can't be forced, it must be breathed. And then when it does come, it might not necessarily be to write things, it might come in other forms like for designing buildings, or cooking or just random thoughts or whatever your interests.

    Actually, not being inspired to write is sometimes a good thing... a sort of inner calm, lol, and then when some idea comes riding along on its wave, it needs to be quickly transformed and released so that the calm can return. ;^)

  7. lol, gracious in victory, gracious in defeat.

  8. Just came across the following link from another of my contacts (taogirl who wrote "be positive, but conduct risk management") which seems to tie in very well with this.

  9. 7 Habits

    Habits are things we do repeatedly, often without even being aware of them, some effective, some delinquent. We can always exchange a bad habit for a better one. As Samuel Smiles put it,

    Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
    Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
    Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
    Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

    Here are 7 effective habits:

    1) Be Proactive: take responsibility and have a can-do attitude.
    2) End in Mind: mission and goals.
    3) Prioritize: most important things first.
    4) Win-Win attitude: everyone can succeed.
    5) Listen: seek first to understand, then to be understood.
    6) Collaborate: work as a team to achieve more.
    7) Renew: set aside time for balance, exercise, improvement, inspiration & learning.

    Give your all, fearing neither failure nor success. No-one hears you say, "I commit", there is no applause, no cheering squad, only a private battle which you must fight and win within your own mind. Private victories always come before public victories. "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Your trust and confidence in yourself is built up over time through compassion, integrity, self-knowledge and serenity. Be the force! “You can’t leave footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt! And who wants to leave butt prints in the sands of time?”