You are not that special.
It sucks to read that, no? It might make you angry at the beginning, or probably make your ego kick in and refute the statement above. But really…you are not special. You are human like everyone else around you. And what you need most is to be humble and accept that fact.
Humility, the quality of having a modest or low view of your importance, is something that requires training, thought and discipline to be achieved in our lifetime. And unfortunately, it does become more difficult to attain when we are constantly surrounded by colleagues and leaders who are the complete opposite of humble. We all have had times in the past where we let our ego get the best of us, where we let one moment of accomplishment make us feel like we are better than others…until life slapped us in the face and brought us back down to our knees.
We all tend to forget that we are all of equal importance in this world, that we were all made of the same ashes and to those ashes we will return when our time expires. Marcus Aurelius used Alexandre the Great as a great example for this concept. Despite all the power and achievement that Alexander the Great had in his life, he and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to them: they were buried, absorbed by this earth and conquered by time. Regardless of what you achieve, how special you think you are, how wealthy you get, you will die at some point. Let the idea and knowledge of the certainty of death humble you. Allow it to remind you that you are no better than the person sitting next to you on the bus, the person you judge in the train, the person you compete with at work, the person you are jealous of and/or hate in life. Remember that time will ignore who you are and will always emerge victorious. Realize that you really are not that important after all. You may become important to certain people in this world, but all the universe and it’s history will care less if you existed or not. The ruins around you should remind you that countless people lived in them, and they are all gone now. Time erased their names, and even if their names were written down, they are just names today and nothing more than that.
Let the idea and knowledge of the certainty of death humble you.
In his book of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius says that there are 5 things every person should never forget in his/her lifetime:
– The nature of the world
– Your nature
– How you relate to the world
– What proportion of it you make up
– That you are part of nature and no one can prevent you from speaking or acting in harmony with it, always
I believe the fourth item on that list is the most important as it reminds us that our proportion in this world is infinitesimal. Don’t let your ego make you think otherwise. Ego leads only to self deception, and self deception will hinder your ability to become a better person. Epictetus said that it is impossible for someone to learn what they think they already know. Live your life assuming that every person around you is better than you in some way. Gain the ability to admit that you do not know certain things, and allow yourself to learn from those around you.
It is impossible for you to learn what you think you already know.
Stop investing your time on celebrities or people who are full of themselves, but find the few who are humble and follow their examples. Many rich people, despite their fame and fortune, still lead a simple life and are able to control their ego because they realized that they are no better than others (think Warren Buffet, Tom Hanks, Keanu Reaves). One celebrity many of us forget his humble trait is Bruce Lee. He is famous today for his movies, his manner of death and his incredible speed in martial arts. Yet we fail to remember that he was also down to earth and that we can learn a few philosophical things from him. Bruce Lee kept his ego in check every day by reading the following sentence to himself: Inwardly, Psychologically, Be A Nobody.
Inwardly, Psychologically, Be A Nobody.
He kept a card in his pocket where he could read off this sentence whenever he felt it is necessary. He constantly reminded himself that he truly is a nobody, and that fame and fortune does not make you a somebody. He focused on being human first, on getting detached from material items and on becoming formless. He has a famous video on YouTube in which he spoke about the importance of being formless like water. He said that If you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. If you put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, it can crash, and it cannot be harmed in its natural state. So be formless like water as by becoming shapeless, you avoid getting hurt. You are no longer as vulnerable as before. The little things in life wont get to you anymore, and the big things in life will not influence you as much. This will help you lead a life of no ego and create more genuine connections with those around you.
Challenge: For the next 7 days, I would like to challenge you the reader to remind yourself every day that you are a nobody. See if that helps in changing your perspective about others. Check if you will become less judgmental of others, and observe if you become more humble with yourself. Track how many times during your day you have to remind yourself of this concept in order to succeed in it’s implementation. You might get surprised by the results.