Saturday, January 15, 2005

Two Things Every Writer Should Do

I'm not really comfortable calling myself a writer. Because honestly, what have I written? Where are my published works? I've met great writers like Krip Yuzon, Danton Remoto, Dr. Rofel Brion, Christine Belen, Alvin Yapan, Dean Alfar, and a host of other talented writers and you know what, what am I compared to the likes of them (at least at this point in time)? All I have to show for is this blog/livejournal, and honestly, blogging is easy (at least compared to the other modes of writing). I do enjoy blogging, but I feel somehow that I'm cheating on the part of me that's a "writer". To all the would-be writers out there that shares this feeling, I have two pieces of advice for you. One is to write what you want. The other, more neglected part, is writing what you don't want.

The first one is easy. Nearly anyone can do it. Why else would people pursue a vocation in writing? Because there's something calling them to write, be it prose or poetry. There's an innate need to create and mince words. And of course, just as readers read the books that they want to read, writers write what they want to write. It's a writer's outlet. I don't care if you're producing shit-lit, fanfics, or masturbatory blog entries. If it makes you happy, do it. But of course, do it well. Everyone who has hands can produce graffiti. It takes a good writer though to produce something that catches the reader's attention. Anyone is capable of producing art. Whether it's beautiful art or not is a different question altogether. The same goes with writing. Create something that pleases you, but make sure it's pleasant to other people as well.

Of course having said that, if all the writers wrote what they wanted to write, there wouldn't be any growth. Which is why my second point is important as well. Write what you don't want to write. For example, if you're a poet who specializes in free verse, try your hand at rhymes, rhythm, or even the sonnets. If the main strength of your short stories is plot, try your hand at imagery. If all you've written are first-person narratives, try the third person. I must admit, I'm guilty of not following this. But if I want to improve my skills as a writer, I must be willing to explore and learn. And that means going out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. You don't necessarily need to conquer it, but familiarizing yourself with other techniques and styles is a good experience for any writer.

Writing what you want and writing what you don't want are two elements that are in a constant state of flux. Take writing a short story, for example. Most likely, it'll be a story that the writer is interested in. But perhaps the best mode of expression for the piece is something he's not familiar with. Yet he has to do it, at least if he wants to come out with a great fiction piece. Then once the text is actually written, there'll be revisions and editing. The writer will then have to do away with certain parts, even if he's fallen in love with them, simply because it doesn't work. Similarly, there will also be sections that he has to add to make the story better. But of course, not all of this would be unpleasant, since the writer will develop wonderful passages and interesting characters along the way.

Or putting it in another perspective, the extremes of either one can also be devastating. A writer who always writes what he wants will never grow. His writing will go stale and never mature. Writing becomes a masturbatory act. On the other hand, if you continually keep on writing material that you don't want to write, one will eventually lose the passion for the art. What use is writing if you don't derive pleasure from it? A balance between the two is what's usually needed, the former to fuel your desires, the latter to train and develop your skills.

There are many people who claim to be writers. While I do believe that there's a soul of a writer in every person, not everyone makes it a vocation. Perhaps one way to tell them apart is to ask whether they're writing something they want or something they don't want. If it's the former, then writing is merely a hobby. If it's just the latter, it's a job. If you're doing both, well, I'm glad to have met a true writer.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Opposites Attract

I always believed that people bond together when they find something in common, whether it's something they like or suffering from the same adversity. Yet when I look around and judging from my own behavior, I also noticed that opposites do attract each other. If I believe in the saying "birds of the same feather flock together", how do I defend "opposites attract", and don't they contradict each other?

I don't think I need to present evidence showing how opposites attract each other. But I do think it's important to understand why they occur. To me, the most common reason is obtaining something you yourself don't personally have: it's the ugly guy who has a beautiful girlfriend, the poor man who has a rich friend, or the socially-inept person who has a socialite significant other. In other words, it's proving to yourself and to the world that you can have something that's usually denied from you. In the case of the ugly guy, he's acquiring beauty that he himself doesn't possess. In the case of the poor man, he gets a taste of what it's like to be rich. For the socially inept, the social atmosphere the significant other generates more than makes up for what's lacking. Yet it's also not as one-sided as this. For example, the beautiful girlfriend only looks more beautiful alongside her not-so-pleasant-looking boyfriend. The rich friend appears more wealthy, at least compared to his poor friend. And the socialite can revel in the attention he or she receives, especially when the socialite's friends comment on how shy the significant other is. I'm not saying this is bad. I mean if I were poor, wouldn't I want to have riches? And if that were the case, wouldn't riches look more attractive to me, than say, beauty? And similarly, if I had riches but lacked beauty, wouldn't someone or something pretty be more valuable? And if I didn't have enough confidence in myself, a good morale booster would be finding someone or something that doesn't seem threatening. I mean if I was the beautiful girlfriend and I had a handsome boyfriend, I might think that I'm not beautiful enough and my handsome boyfriend might leave me for someone else. But he wasn't as attractive, I could always think that he got the better deal and so won't leave me for someone else (even though that's not necessarily true).

Fascination can also be a motivating factor. I mean when someone is similar to us, we have insight into their lives, simply because we have something in common. A student, for example, can empathize more with fellow students but not with teachers. Sometimes, the other person becomes an enigma that we become attracted to them. Take for example the silent guy with deep thoughts. The girl who talks a lot might find the silent guy attractive because of the mystery that surrounds him. Unlike herself whose thoughts are transparent, she knows little about the guy aside from what's apparent. Or similarly, an artist might be attracted to the businessman, because the latter knows how to engage in business. The latter is also attracted to the former because his thoughts are usually logical while the former is more creative. When we encounter the unknown, there are only usually two reactions: either we fear it, or we become fascinated with it. If it's the former, we'll most likely stick to those we know, hence "like attracts like". If it's the latter, the phenomena of opposites attract occurs.

Another reason is linked to to the belief that "birds of the same feather flock together". If I was lazy and wanted to be hard-working, should I hang out with lazy people or hard-working people? It's obviously the latter, and it's because we want other people's talents to rub off on ourselves. I mean we see cowards hiding behind the courageous, the meek people under the wing of strong men and women, the average following the advice of the geniuses. It's not necessarily because the former wants to take advantage of the latter, but sometimes, it's because the former wants to become like the latter. And honestly, one of the best ways we learn is via exposure and mimicry. Sometimes it pays off. That's why people usually look for mentorship or leadership. Talent is developed. People who were once nobodies eventually become great men and women thanks to the apprenticeship of someone great. Cowards eventually conquer their fears by learning from the example of courageous individuals. It's not such a bad deal really. But of course, it doesn't work all the time. Just because I act like someone and talk like someone does not make me that someone. Copying and learning aren't exclusive to each other. Sometimes, we merely become poseurs, a wannabe who just happens to have the right connections and hangs out with the right people. Does that make me one of them? Not necessarily. At other times, we genuinely learn something from the other person, and we make the transition from trying to becoming. Eventually, someone who tries to write that great novel, for example, eventually writes that great novel. All those years practicing the craft and copying other writer's styles eventually pays off. The person is no longer copying any particular writer's style, but developed his or her own. And this can only be achieved by constant exposure. If we want to be good at something, we first find someone we can look up to or has accomplished that something we want to do, and we try to emulate them as much as we can. It's turning our weaknesses into strengths.

The last reason I find this situation to be true is when we do so to complement ourselves. A good example is any successful organization or business. Obviously, a lot of skills are needed in such an enterprise, and most likely, no one person has all the necessary skills to succeed. The solution is building a team. A team is composed of many members, each one with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. The strength of one member complements the strength of the other members so that the weaknesses are covered up. Sometimes, there's even synergy that takes the group to new heights. Similarly, such a couple can also exist. There's the responsible wife who takes care of the details, while the husband determines the general direction of things. Or just look at the archaic image of the husband and wife: the husband provides for the family, while the wife takes care of the family. In this scenario, our individual weaknesses stop being weaknesses because there's someone else to take over.

I'm not professing any particular ideology here, but we do see how it's possible for completely different people to be attracted to each other. While people usually get along when they have a common ground, it's equally likely too that people will get along simply because they're different from each other.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Is It Wrong to Dream?

This might seem like a strange question, yet a lot of people in our society (including our friends and relatives) do discourage us from our dreams. For example, when I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, my father was less than enthusiastic. He wanted me to pursue a degree that was more marketable, such as computer science, or even business. And I'm sure some people will laugh if you tell them an incredulous dream, such as perhaps being a billionaire (if you don't already come from a wealthy family that is), or being president of the country. So I ask, is it wrong to dream big? If not, why do people, including our loved ones, often discourage it?

Here's my take on things. Is it wrong to dream big? No, of course not. If people didn't have big aspirations, then the human race wouldn't progress. I mean the reason why we have television sets, cars, airplanes, or even mobile phones is because someone at some time had a big vision. Were they ridiculed? I'm sure they were. And depending on the era, some people might even have been persecuted for their beliefs. Did they succeed? Well, perhaps not at the start. But obviously, we now have the convenience of modern technology, and somebody had to invent them. And it all begins with a dream. Of course having said that, I won't say dreaming big will be easy. In fact, it's painful, and sometimes, even dangerous. The larger your dream the more difficult it will be for you, especially if it's not something that has been accomplished before. I mean a century ago, people would probably believe you more if you said you were going to be president rather than walking on the moon. At the least the former has precedence, and somebody has to be president (although of course, the chances of you being that person was slim). Walking on the moon, on the other hand, is not something that was possible then (but of course, fast forward half a century later and walking on the moon is a feat that can be achieved). Perhaps that's why our friends and family sometimes discourages us from dreaming big. Because obviously, not everyone gets to achieve their dreams. And when you fail, it hurts; the bigger your dream, the more painful the experience. It's like building the Tower of Babel: the higher you ascend, the more devastating the fall. But that's not always the case. What usually drives people to dream big is the similarly big pay-off. More often than not, the bigger the risks you take or the more "impossible" the feat, the greater the reward.

Having said all that, what does it mean to dream? Well, if you don't want to get hurt, don't dream. Settle for less. It's much like courting someone: you can't get rejected if you don't try. Of course similarly, you won't get much excitement either. I don't think our friends and parents don't want us to dream. They just don't want us to dream big dreams, mainly because big dreams entails lots of hardship and suffering. And honestly, who wants hardship and suffering, especially when it happens to someone you care about? It's not that they don't want good things for you. In fact, it's possible to have good things in life by having not-so-big dreams. Sometimes, being average is good enough. Sure, you're not uncovering your full potential, but it also requires less of you. Now I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Being average, is well, safe. People will have different views about you, but in the long run, being average is the least dangerous. For example, take a look at kidnapping. Who do kidnappers kidnap? Usually those who have a high profile, either you're rich or you're famous (since some assume that just because you're famous means you're rich). If you're average, well, there's a good chance you or your family won't get kidnapped. Similarly, people won't pay much attention to you either. I mean who do people pay attention to? The extraordinary people, whether they're a celebrity, a politician, or the president of a company. Big dreams isn't for everyone. But I do believe having dreams (no matter how insignificant it might seem) is vital. It's what drives us to become more human, to be better people.

Of course just because we have dreams does not mean we will achieve them. Perhaps what I see wrong in the world is that people mistake dreams for wishes. We've all heard the statement "I want a family, a house and lot, and a car". Is that a dream or a wish? Well, if you're doing something about it, it's a dream. A dream is a goal, something you try to obtain. If you're not doing anything about it and doing the same old stuff you did before that doesn't bring you closer to it, well, it's a wish. Why a wish? Because it'll never be achieved short of outside interference (such as somebody suddenly bequeathing you his or her wealth, or someone gives you a check of millions of dollars on your birthday). Again, I'm not saying wishing is wrong. We all have wishes. Most of us wishes for world peace or to stop world hunger. Do we expect it to come true? No, of course not. Never mistake a dream for a wish. Dreams are achievable, but only if you exert effort and are dedicated enough to achieve it. To some people, their dreams are their purpose. If you don't have a purpose in life or don't expect to fulfill it, what kind of life are you living?

By now, I think it's fair to say that dreams are goals or can be broken down into several goals. And goals can be planned for if your dream is concrete. I mean if your dream is, for example, to be rich, it would be more helpful if we qualify what "rich" means. If being rich for you means having $1,000,000.00 in the bank, then that's your end goal. Similarly, if your dream is to become president, well, it would be helpful if we became more specific. "I will be president of the Philippines by the year 2020," for example, is a specific goal. Once the goal is set, we know more on how to achieve it. In the case of acquiring $1,000,000 in the bank, well, we must obviously take steps to actualize that. In this case, we can break it down into several, smaller goals. Let's say that in order to achieve the $1,000,000 dollars, we should deposit $1,000 in the bank each month. Assuming no interest is earned, it'll take us 83 years to fulfill that goal. Is that too long? Well, let's say we deposit $2,000 in the bank each month. That'll take us over 42 years to reach our final goal. If working for 42 years is good enough for you, your immediate goal is to deposit $2,000 in the bank every month. I'm not saying that's easy, but it's definitely easier than getting that one million all in one go. If you're dedicated enough in achieving your dream, you have to start somewhere. Depositing $1 in the bank is better than not depositing at all. It's a small step, but a step forward nonetheless. Dreams shouldn't be wishes. We should take steps to actualize it. (On a side note, assuming there's a net interest of 2%, it'll take you 31 years to acquire $1,000,000 depositing $24,000 each year.) For me though, money matters has always been easy to calculate. More often than not, our dreams are difficult to quantify. For example, if your goal is to be a wealthy person, $1,000,000 won't achieve that; that's just a stepping stone and you need other avenues of income, whether it's writing that great novel, having a big business, or owning lots of real estate. Similarly, if your dream is to become president of the Philippines, well, there are several avenues to accomplish that. You could take the normal way of climbing up the political ladder such as running for mayor, senator, vice-president, and eventually the position of president, or perhaps you could take a different route, such as becoming a wealthy individual, or take up a career that gives you a lot of publicity. I'm not saying one method is better than the other, and sometimes, we won't know which is the most effective method until the day arrives to test it, but it's what we can come up with and is the only way we can measure our small successes, at least at this point in time.

Even if everyone breaks down their dreams into small goals, not everyone fulfills their dream. Why? Because it's difficult. No one ever associated dream fulfillment with being easy, at least not initially. There will always be hurdles when you pursue your dream. A lot will be asked from you. The question is, are you up to it? The problem I find with some people is that they think they're entitled to their dreams. A person, for example, might think he's entitled to wealth just because he's worked hard for the past few years. Well, a lot of people have worked hard for decades, and even they aren't rich. Or a writer might think that just because he's had two decades of education that he should get paid a lot for his writing. Well, sometimes even education isn't enough. Personally, I think if you want to fulfill your dreams, you need two things: effort and intelligence. The former is obvious: you'll never accomplish anything unless you exert effort. The latter is perhaps the less obvious one. Millions of people are working hard everyday, yet not all of them are fulfilling their dreams. The difference is not necessarily from their output but in the way they think. The cliche saying is that "there's more than one way to skin a cat". The same is true in attaining our goals. There are several vehicles to accomplish that. Of course not all of them are equal. Some methods are more efficient than others. That's where intelligence comes in, figuring out which is the most efficient method and which is the one appropriate for yourself. Sometimes, intelligence even finds a way to achieve the same results for lesser effort. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying effort is not needed. Rather, effort alone is insufficient. You need intelligence to back it up. But similarly, intelligence without action is also useless. That's why a combination of hard work and wisdom is the most effective method. But of course, both factors won't come naturally to you. It's something you need to learn, something you need to develop in yourself.

Another thing that irks me is when people assume that they'll attain their dreams without personal growth or sacrifice. Everything has a price. If you want your dream badly enough, you'll pay that price. I have writer friends whose dream is to write that great novel or playwright. Thus they participate in workshops and revisions. Why workshops? Because you get criticism there. Criticism is never easy, especially to sensitive people, but it's a necessary process. Why? Because that's one of the ways you'll discover your mistakes or how your work can be improved. In a way, that's also why there are editors. Editors help writers nurture and develop their work. That involves the occasional criticism or pointing out errors or passages that can be improved upon. Some of my friends loathe criticism. Sometimes, it's not a process they want to undergo. For me, that's folly. At least that's so if they want to fulfill their dream. I don't think there's any writer who didn't receive some sort of criticism at one time or another. Sure, the more successful writers nowadays gain accolades from their peers, but even born geniuses aren't perfect. I'm sure when they were starting, they made mistakes or wrote things that didn't please people. I think the important thing is to keep on going and to keep on improving. Criticism in this case is part of the price you have to pay. Long hours editing your work or making revisions is also part of that price. Continual education, reading other works, and exposing yourself to new ideas and subject matter are also steps a good writer needs to undergo. In whatever you do, there will always be a cost. That leaves us with two kinds of mentalities: either it's "suffer now play later" or "play now suffer later". I can't say which one is better: it's your decision which one it'll be. But I have this word of advice: if you want to remain in your comfort zone and don't want to grow, you'll most likely choose the latter. And when that happens, most likely, you won't achieve a big dream. Dreams can change. You can always make your dream smaller. You can follow the advice of the people who tell you don't dream of doing this or that, or that you can't do it. You can always have easy dreams and do easy work. But if you want big dreams, be ready to pay the price.

Speaking of price, you don't necessarily have to pay everything. Obviously, there are some things we won't do. I, for example, won't do something I find unethical or immoral. If my goal was to become the president of a company, I won't resort to embezzling money in order to finance myself, nor would I have my rivals assassinated when there's an opening for promotion. I also wouldn't find ways to get my superiors into trouble just to make a vacancy open in the first place. Each of us has standards that we aren't willing to compromise. If that's the case, well, just find another method. In my example, there are other ways of climbing the corporate ladder, such as providing good output, waiting for the promotion, involving yourself in other projects with the company, volunteering your services, etc. Of course don't confuse this with not doing something that's uncomfortable for you. In the said scenario, it might be inconvenient for you to come home late and miss your favorite TV show just to do extra work. Or you might be sent to another country but you don't want to do so because you're unfamiliar with that nation and unwilling to learn the language. That's laziness and staying in your comfort zone. If this is your uncompromising standard, well, you need to reevaluate your dream. Dream something "convenient". If you want to fulfill a good dream, then you must be willing to give it proportionate time and effort as well. Go out of your comfort zone! It's usually in that way do we grow and become better people as well as expanding our skills and capabilities. But be sure to prioritize the things that you value as well be it your code of conduct, your family, or your friends. And do your research as well. Some of the things we don't want to comprise might just be things that we don't want to do. There are also a lot of misconceptions out there. For example, in the Philippines, many people believe that government officials, businessmen, and the police are corrupt and greedy. Not all of them are. Pursuing a career in government, business, or even law enforcement isn't evil. It's what you do with it that dictates what the results will be. You'll be envied, criticized, and ridiculed by other people, but sometimes, that's part of the price you have to pay. What's important is that you know your reasons for doing so and not what other people believe your reasons are.

Is it wrong to dream? Definitely not. But don't expect dreams to fulfill themselves. We need to exert time and effort to fulfill them. Our dreams always come at a price. The question is, are you willing to pay that price? Do you want your dream badly enough? What are you wiling to forego just to attain that goal? What you must do to achieve your dream isn't a question you ask other people, but rather something you must ask deep within yourself.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Fool

I'm an idiot, an ignorant buffoon. But so are you. Don't get me wrong. We're all knowledgeable and wise in one field or another. But there will always be a subject in which we are unfamiliar with. If there is anything universal, it is ignorance. When we're born, there's a lot we don't know. We don't know that a world exist, we don't really know the pain and discomfort it takes our parents to care for us, and we don't even know who we really are. Yet somehow, as we mature and grow older, we slowly gather more information and we become less ignorant (or at least we think so). The question I want to ask is what drives us to do this? Some might argue that curiosity may be innate yet when I look around, I see people who stop looking for answers, people who think that they know everything there is to know about the world, or people who are simply tired of finding an explanation for things. So, what really motivates people to learn?

I lived under a household that said one thing and did another. When I was a child, my parents praised me for my curiosity. When I asked about this and that, they'd smile and tell all their friends that I was an inquisitive and growing child. Of course when I demanded answers, that's where they faltered. They returned the question to me: "Why are you asking?" or "Why do you want to find out?". Later on, it became apparent to me that the only time they returned the question was when they were unwilling to give me the answers to my question, because they either thought it was too complicated for me to understand (such as when I ask them what the nature of their business was), or they weren't willing to divulge it (like how much they were earning). As to why I was asking the questions, I think the answer is obvious. Because I'm ignorant, and I know it! There's a lot of things I don't know and I was on a search to find out the answers to my questions. Several years later and I still find myself ignorant of such matters. Yet what surprises me (and humiliates me) is why I've stopped asking those questions even when I'm not any more knowledgeable now than I was years before. And this is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to myself but to other people as well. Why do we stop asking questions? One reason (and perhaps not the only one) is because our society discourages asking questions. My philosophy teachers marvel at the curiosity of the child: why is the sky blue? Why is the world round? What is love? It might seem like a ridiculous question to adults, yet it's a question that philosophers ponder on and on. They might never arrive at a definite answer but it's the search that matters, the personal development and insight that arises from such exploration. Yet the questions these philsophers ask are sometimes no different from the questions we as children ask. The former get acclaim for it, yet the latter were merely ridiculed, or worse, ignored. So does it really surprise you that in our society, curiosity may be praised, but deep down, it's not really encouraged (or is out of place in the realm of adults).

School is supposed to be a place of learning. Yet for most of time I was in grade school and high school, me and my fellow students kept asking this question: why am I being taught this? Perhaps the biggest failure of schools is that knowledge is forced on the students. I'm sure a lot of you hate math. Perhaps you would dislike it less if it wasn't something that you feared (which arises from the fear one feels when we hear the words "quizzes" or "exams") or if it wasn't something you were coerced into learning (Math is a subject taught five times a day, whether you wanted it or not). Personally, I more or less liked math, not only because I had a limited proficiency in it, but rather because I saw the practical purpose. I mean I'd be at the mercy of the salesmen and women if I didn't know my arithmetic. Statistics and probability has always aided me in my decisions with the risk vs. rewards argument. And since we were kids at that time, we dared to ask our parents and teachers why needed to learn this or that subject. More often than not, they did not give us answers that satisfied us. Which I think is the root of most of the problems any teacher faces. Students aren't stupid. They just don't have enough motivation to learn a particular subject, especially when you fail to give them an answer that they can grasp, and can fully appreciate.

Of course failing that, perhaps our next natural instict is to ask whether doing this particular activity is fun or not. As I mentioned earlier, doing Math is not something pleasant for most people. It's difficult and requires effort. But so does playing sports and playing video games. Time and effort are exerted into it. Sometimes, it's not even pleasant. What's the difference? For most people, doing math isn't fun (although obviously, there are exceptions and some people find enjoyment in math). Playing sports and video game is the opposite. In fact, we usually associate the word "playing" with sports and video games. When did we last associate "play" with math? Or any other subject we loathed for that matter? Our mental perspective on things plays an integral part as well. Perhaps if we associated "math" with "play" more often (or presented it in such a way that doing math was an enjoyable game), more people would like it.

During high school and sometimes when I meet older people, I get the "I-know-it-all" mentality. Don't get me wrong. These people aren't arrogant (at least outwardly). In fact, they may be meek people who are silent and don't reply unless asked. But these kind of people think that they don't need to do anything else and that they have all the tools and skills necessary to fulfill all their dreams in life. I have classmates who think "whether I pass or fail in this subject doesn't matter since we have a family business and that's where I'll end up no matter what my degree is". Obviously, if you have that kind of mentality, learning stops being a priority, especially when you're asked to go out of your comfort zone. Or I meet people who think that there's nothing else to be learned, especially from the likes of me, someone who's younger and lacks their experience. Any comments or suggestions I have are patronized, but aren't really taken into consideration. Or worse, people with "'I don't understand it'/'I never learned' it so it's probably not important". I'm not saying that kind of scenario is never true but hey, the world is changing and new discoveries and being made every day. How can I say this or that isn't important unless I investigate it? It's like saying this book or that movie is good/bad without seeing it for yourself.

There's also one thing that stops us from finding the answers to our questions. The fact that we might be wrong. And hey, I can sympathize. No one wants to make mistakes. I've humiliated myself several times, all the while thinking that I had the right answer when the truth was that the opposite was true. A perfect example is during oral participation in class. The teacher would ask a question and I'd raise my hand to answer their question. Guess what, my answer was wrong! I may have been disgraced but from then on, I knew what the right answer was (or at least my previous answer was the wrong one). Personally, knowledge and wisdom comes before pride. And let's face it, sometimes, the only times we really learn is when we make mistakes. So my advice is that we shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. Yes, hate and loathe making mistakes. That'll give you more incentive to search for the right answers harder. But in the end, more often than not, we won't know whether we can do something, whether something is right or not, unless we try. And it's in the trying that we grow, become better people, and learn. We might make mistakes and more often than not, we will make mistakes. No one can guarantee a 100% risk-free experience. And so while we can whine about our failures, or worse, get into a situation where we have regrets and think of what-if scenarios, sometimes, it's best to dive into the thick of things and learn from our errors.

Failure can also wear us down. The reason I stopped asking questions from my parents was because I never got answers. Well, there's nothing I can offer to remedy that. The best advice I can give is to try and try. Be more stubborn than what fate deals you. Right now, I continue to ask my parents questions despite their previous track record. They're more or less consistent with their track record of not giving me answers but from time to time, they do give me insights. Persistence is sometimes the key. If you don't get it right the first time, sometimes, you'll get it at the hundredth time. It's not much for consolation, but hey, it's better than not getting answers at all. The only thing I can guarantee you is that if you don't ask, you'll never get an answer. At least if you do ask, no matter how small that chance is, there's always a chance. And if you studied your probabilities, your chance might be one in a million, but people do win lotteries.

Lastly, there's desperation. Perhaps one of my best example was when I was studying. Normally, the teacher gives you a lot of time to write a term paper. Of course writing term papers usually means research. If you're given half a year, it's a tendency of mine to be relaxed at the first month. I'm not out to get as much information as I can. In fact, when it's offered to me, I sometimes decline. Yet as the months pass by, the deadline looms closer and closer. That's when I start to get desperate. I scramble for information and data, even if it would be inconvenient for me. I have a set goal and I give everything I can just to fulfill that goal. In this case, it's learning and gathering information. But desperation for learning only works if you think the goal is worth it. For example, if you don't think passing or failing a particular subject is important, then you won't be desperate. But if it is something you deem important and your chances seem to be dwindling, you suddenly accept that fact and soak up information like a sponge. If anything was hindering you before, it's less of a hindrance now. Why? Because you have the mentality of the fool, someone who knows that he or she doesn't know anything. And thus one becomes more teachable, one gains the motivation to learn and to grow.

I'm not saying that there aren't brilliant people in the world, or even that you're not talented or wise. But if you are as good as you say you are, then you shouldn't be complacent. Stagnation is the worst enemy of geniuses. There must be continual growth and evolution. And perhaps the only way that can be achieved is by continuing to learn. And by learning, we thus grow and live.