The Information Age.
It seems to me that in this era, people are addicted to getting answers and advice.
Up to the meaning of life, down to how to tie a knot, we always need somebody else to feed us the information.
Look at these headlines:
- How to Work a Night Shift
- How to Enjoy a Meal
- How to Make Kawaii Food
- How to Know If You Are Drunk
- How to Increase Urination
To be fair, that’s the good thing about the Information Age. Everything you want to know, and every answer you think you need, is all there at the click of a button. There’s nothing you can’t find on the net.
Many of these articles are really practical and useful. Until I read some random post about it, I didn’t really know you can actually ripen an avocado by wrapping it in tin foil and baking it for 10 minutes, for example.
But then, many questions and problems in life are abstract.
- What career path should I pursue?
- How do I break up with my girlfriend without hurting her feelings?
- How do I make money quickly?
- Which novel should I read next?
And the more serious questions:
- What religion should I convert to?
- What is the meaning of my life?
- How do I live a life without regrets?
- Should I give up everything and chase my dream?
- How can I be happier?
You see, no one can really answer these questions for you, because there simply isn’t an answer for them. It’s not like math. All everyone can give you is advice and recommendations.
And in search of advice, people turn to gurus. People read a bunch of self-help books.
This is where things start to go wrong.
Can We Really Trust the Gurus?
The “life advice” market is huge.
In the book store, there are non-fiction books telling you the best ways to live your life, often backed by “scientific studies”. Then there are the traditional religious texts. And then there are the piles of New Age books written by “spiritual teachers”, ready to thrust their ideas down your throat.
…not to mention the huge quantities of self-help blogs on the internet (including this one.)
The thing that bugs me, though, is that some people will read just about anything. I mean, a “12 Ways to Turn Your Crippling Stress into Happiness” post is not really going to help you that much with your stress, is it?
You see, I wrote that post. I am the one giving advice, and I haven’t even done one third of the stuff on the list. I don’t know if that stuff works or not. So who am I to give advice?
And yet, people are taking advice from posts just like mine. (I’m really sorry.)
The worst part is, sometimes we will actually take everything we read as the truth without even thinking about it.
When Eckhart Tolle tells you to empty your mind, did you question it? To be honest with you, I didn’t. When I first read his book, I didn’t question any of his ideas. I took it all in.
But now, I don’t agree with him at all. Because I now know that no one has a mind without thoughts, unless he or she is dead.
I am not only bashing modern gurus just to feel superior. Let’s talk about the Buddha. When the Buddha tells you to meditate, did you question him?
When everyone says meditation lowers high blood pressure, reduces anxiety, increases energy level, improves mood, improves the immune system, improves creativity, boosts happiness, develops intuition, develops concentration and anti-aging with zero drawbacks, did you doubt any of it?
I know meditation really well. I teach it. But I don’t think it is the magic pill to life. It’s not that perfect.
For example, if you have anxiety or depression, I’d recommend you to stay away from meditation, because it will only make it worse. Also, meditation doesn’t improve creativity. It’s the other way round – it kills creativity.
Meditation, like anything, is dangerous and harmful if done wrong. I don’t want to go into this now, but I’ll write about it in the future.
And then there are other Buddhist teachings like being passive. About not owning any kind of property. About not earning your own food but to beg for it. Is this really how we should live our lives in the 21th century?
Again, I won’t argue against Buddhism and Eckhart Tolle here. I just want to say that many teachings out there are questionable.
For one thing, they are definitely not the absolute truth. But some people will read these teachings and treat them as such.
You were wrong all along. Your life isn’t right. You didn’t live in the present. You gave in to your worldly desires. You weren’t compassionate enough. You were too selfish. You were thinking too much…
That’s why you’re unhappy, man.
You don’t need some Indian prince who left his family two thousand five hundred years ago to tell you how to live your life “correctly.” You already have your own way of life, your own philosophy and your own intelligence to deal with the problems you face in life.
No one can really say their way of life is better and superior than yours. After all, you did manage to get through all the trials in life without any gurus’ help, unscathed.
But the scary things, sometimes a book, a conversation, or even a short passage is all it takes to rob all your organic beliefs away from you.
The bottom line:
Do you really want to give up your own way of life, something that defines who you are, so easily?
How I Let People Talk Me out of My Dream: A Tragedy
Did you know that when I was a teenager, I wanted to be an artist? You know, like an actual painter?
Instead of studying, I drew and sketched every day. In the school common room. In my dorm room. In the computer lab. I got pretty good at it, too. I thought I could really make a living drawing.
But then, I asked for everyone’s opinion.
You already know how it went down:
You can’t make any money doing that. How can you support yourself before you even made it? There are too much competition. You need a lot of luck for that…
I listened to them. I gave up.
I could have been the greatest painter of the 21st century. Now, I would never know. (Luckily, now I have another artistic outlet: writing.)
Be the Dictator of Your Sovereign
I am not saying all advice is bad. You need advice. I need advice. Everyone needs it from time to time.
But when you take advice, you need to be really critical. Use your ability to judge, and scrutinize every possible outcome before you decide to act on it.
Sometimes, it might even be better for you to not take any advice from anyone at all, because it might pollute your better judgment. It might lead you down a wrong path.
In the end, no one knows what is best for you, except you.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to set a boundary as to how much others can influence you.
You are a king. You are a queen. You are the sole dictator of your life. As a ruler, you have an army of informers at your disposal.
Now, your country is at war. You need to make the right decisions to deliver your people from destruction.
If you are a wise and powerful ruler, you will make decisions on your own, with confidence in your own judgment. You may ask for advice from your informers, but you don’t let them sway your judgment easily. You scrutinize their answers, reject the garbage, take what’s useful, and move on.
But if you are a weak ruler, you will trust everything your informer says, including the lies and deception from the spy in their midst. This, in fact, is how actual kings in history led their country to destruction.
Weak kings don’t exercise their own judgment. Weak queens always blindly follow their incompetent informers. If you are weak, your informers rule your country – not you.
Make a decision now. Decide that you will exercise your own judgment. Decide that you will not become a blind follower. Decide that you will not let others govern how you live.
Be strong and independent. Be a brave king. Be a noble queen.
Lead your kingdom to victory.
What To Do Next
Buddhism and meditation are certainly not perfect. But with the correct attitude, you can still extract a lot of value and benefits from them.
I have written a super-detailed and step-by-step guide on Buddhist meditation. Even better, you can download it right now for free.
This free guide has more and better information than most of the meditation books on the market, including those that sell at a premium price.
It even warns you against the two deadliest dangers of meditation.