Handling Resentment

Resentment is one of the negative emotions that can sneak up on a person.  Like all parts of the subconscious mind, if fed it will eventually dominate every part of your being; and being a negative, and negatives being easier to cultivate, it will grow quickly.  Unfortunately, it is not an easy thing to let go of, and understandably so; resentment is usually borne from the misdeeds of another toward you in your past, and those things aren’t always forgiven easily.  Sometimes, that anger can fester and demand release, and it is inevitably at the worst possible time. At such times, there may be company over, or a child may be too close for the ensuing argument or fight, and in doing so it may cause the situation to spiral out of control.  The question remains, how do we overcome resentment and help it to diminish, while cultivating positive thought processes to take the place of the negative ones?

That’s not an easy question to answer, and resentment of all negative emotions is possibly the most insidious.  It’s rooted in anger, fear, and disappointment, that has burned down to a smoulder. Most days, the temperature of the anger is so low, you don’t even feel it; much as you barely notice any heat coming from a wood furnace that has been allowed to burn down to coals.  They may even look cool to the touch; but stir them with a poker and let air get to them, and they burn brightly yet again, and a new fire may come to life. To make matters worse, unlike a wood or coal fire, the fire of resentment fuels itself on unresolved issues; although feeding the fuel may be slow, and the oxygine supply may be low, any sudden change can open the valves and ignite the resentment into outright rage.

We all have resentments; there will always be people that wronged us, and we can’t get over it.  Sometimes it wasn’t even of the person’s own volition; the number of children that are resented by their parents due to some perceived contribution to divorce or other family problems is uncountable.  Often times that resentment is carried long past the child, who has already suffered trauma at the hands of the resentment whether it’s obvious or not, coming to adulthood. Acknowledging those resentments, and curtailing the fuel we feed them, must therefore be our aim.  We may never be able to let go of the resentments completely, although that is ultimately the most noble goal, but if we can work to acknowledge (and therefore not bury) them, then find thought patterns that curtail the fuel flow, it will prevent such thoughts from dominating our lives.

Of the three pieces that make up resentment, anger is the easiest to handle.  Anger is the hot fire that we feel when we are wronged, or perceive that we have been wronged, and often dominates our personality when it comes forth.  While giving our anger free reign to release itself when it is presented seems to feel good, what it ends up doing is dominating our subconscious mind and looking for reasons to express itself.  Note the person that gives free license to their anger and how their lives are compared to those that work to not suppress their anger, but instead control it and use the energy toward more constructive means.  Anger is one of two possible instant reactions to being challenged, yelled at, having an unexpected event happen, and pain. It is the “fight” in the fight or flight reaction, and is our body’s primary tool to handle chaos.  After all, chaos is the unknown, and the unknown must be either fought, or fled from. Using the energy of anger in a constructive manner is difficult as well, as anger embraces the chaos and tries to dominate it. Controlling the anger impulse, while acknowledging the reason it comes up, is critical in controlling resentment.

Fear is the second easiest to control, and it is the “flight” emotion of the fight or flight reaction.  While anger seeks to dominate the source of chaos, and in doing so embraces the chaos itself, fear seeks to flee back to a state of order that you are familiar with.  Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown, and is presented in the discomfort we feel when trying new things. It is also presented when someone we know and trust does something wholly unexpected that negatively impacts our environment.  This is most often felt when a trusted partner has an affair, or a normally even-tempered parent suddenly loses their temper at a minimal provocation. The order we see our lives in is suddenly shattered, and you don’t know what to do about it.  You flee toward the first familiar thing you can find, which can ironically be as toxic for you as the original cause of the fear. Like anger, fear is best controlled through discipline, as any soldier can tell you. While it is often difficult to control, especially since it is almost universally directed inward, unlike anger which is generally directed outward, it is vitally important that you acknowledge the fear, and not let it control you.  Anger is far easier to get under control once released than fear is; once fear is allowed to run rampant over you, more and more things will bring it forth. Do not let this happen.

Third, and the hardest to overcome, is disappointment.  Disappointment is a bitterness felt toward a person for not meeting their perceived end of your social bargain.  While both anger and fear relate to a specific action, disappointment is related to the outcome.  You aren’t angry at the result of the action, though you may be angry that the action was taken; you’re disappointed that the action resulted in a negative outcome.  Most importantly, unlike actions, which can be corrected and new habits formed, therefore eliminating the source of anger, the outcomes of past actions are almost universally permanent.  Although you can mitigate any damage done, or repair it, is immaterial; the outcome stands, and had an effect on your life. Of the three emotions heretofore described, it is possible that disappointment may not be overcome outright, but instead must be tolerated and eventually snuffed out as the subject of your resentment stops repeating the actions that created the negative outcome.

One of the keys to overcoming resentment is acknowledging it exists and who or what it exists for.  Sometimes it’s painful to admit that you might resent a parent, child, lover, or close friend; but you won’t be able to let go of that resentment unless you do.  When you find yourself angry or disappointed at someone, especially over things that happened in the past, you should take out your journal and do the following exercise:

Write out the name of the person you resent.

Describe the actions and outcomes that caused the feelings of resentment.  Try to narrow it down to a specific event and outcome; after all, you can repeat this exercise for each instance.

Describe what made you angry about what happened, and why.

Describe how what happened made you feel afraid, and why.  This doesn’t have to be an outright fear, either; it could be fear that it could repeat itself.

Describe why you felt disappointed at the outcome, and why.

Think about what could be done to correct the situation, if anything can.  Write down how you could let go of this resentment; after all, resentment holds you back more than the person you are feeling resentment toward.  If nothing else, come up with a plan of action to make sure you control the underlying emotions of the resentment so that it doesn’t dominate your life.  Even if it means you have to vent your frustrations into your journal every day until it doesn’t frustrate you anymore.

Finally, start reading books focused on positive attitude and emotion.  The best way to release the negative emotions within us, including resentment, is to not feed them.  There are any number of books on developing a positive attitude, but my favorite one is The Little Yellow Book of Yes! Attitude by Jeffrey Gitomer.  You can find it here.

You can find most of the source material I used for this article in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, which you can pick up here.  I also used information from Wikipedia, and my own experiences.

Developing that Next Skill

We all have talents and skills that we use on a day to day basis, which help us in our everyday lives, often in ways that aren’t obvious.  Some skills are utilized on a day to day basis; these skills may include public speaking, writing, computer skills and keyboarding, arithmetic, and by extension algebra, and persuasion.  Other skills that you might have, that help but may not be used daily, may be things like your sport, such as Association Football (Soccer), fencing or other martial arts, or baseball; a game, such as chess; or storytelling.  As the daily application of the former skillset is reasonably expected in almost any vocation, I am going to focus on the second; after all, who knew that being good at Soccer might make you a better Engineer?

I can already see the Engineers in the audience scratching their heads, but if you think about it, it makes sense.  At its core, Association Football is a team sport that revolves around passing a ball until someone can kick it into a net.  It’s a team game; and the teams work cooperatively with each other as they do competitively, as they need to agree to work within the framework of the rules for a successful game.  Failure to agree to cooperate in this framework quickly turns a soccer game into rugby, which while another noble and historied sport, is not the goal of a soccer match. I witnessed this happen several times as a child, when my parents signed me up for intramural sports; after all, eight and nine year olds aren’t always interested in playing by the rules.  Similarly, Engineers agree to compete for bids on a project within the rules of their profession, and the rules of the person taking bids. Similarly, they work within their teams to develop the best product possible for the end-user, whether that product is a simple nail for building houses in hurricane-prone regions, or a bridge you can drive a car across.

Additionally, soccer is heavy in the use of physics, and the angle in which the player kicks the ball, stops the ball, and otherwise manipulates it are key to winning the game.  If you are inclined to watch Japanese anime, the series Stellvia of the Universe addresses a similar notion, in which the main character, Katase Shima, solves a major problem by calculating the positions, velocities, and angles of attack of every object in a three dimensional, zero gravity playing field.  Of course, it is unlikely you will have to do anything that computationally demanding, however being able to “eyeball” angles, direction of movement, and to accurately guess the force needed to apply to the ball to reach its destination, be it player or net, are also useful to an Engineer.

The point of this allegory, insofar as it is presented, is to make you introspective to what hobbies you have and what sports you play, and determine what pieces of those playtime activities also help you in your day to day life.  As a fencer, as in all martial arts, one of the most important things I have developed is self-confidence. Although it is still a trait I am working on; after all, self-confidence doesn’t come in a day, and can easily be set back, if it weren’t for the years of time I have spent “slinging steel” on the weekends, I might not even have the confidence to write the words you are now reading, despite having works of both prose and fiction published in the past.  I certainly wouldn’t have the YouTube Channel that I am slowly building.

How can you cultivate those ancillary skills?  First, you must take inventory of yourself, and what skills you currently possess.  Start with those you use in your vocation, such as using tools, calculating rates, or handling interpersonal relationships.  Next, add those from your hobbies that aren’t already listed. Then add skills that may not be related to either, but you have developed through other means, such as having to do repairs to your home.  Finally, list skills that you believe will be beneficial, but you may not have developed yet, or haven’t developed sufficiently to utilize effectively. Go back and honestly rate your skill level from 1 to 100 in each skill, including those you want to develop, with 1 being barely knowing the basics, and 100 being the level of an expert.  In order for this to work you must be honest with yourself about your skill level; neither modesty nor braggadocio will serve you in this endeavor.  As you judge your skill level, be brutally honest about those things you are both good and poor at; it will help you in the end.

Now, take stock of what you want to learn or develop, and determine what skills, if any, can be practiced in both your vocation and your hobby.  If there is one that readily jumps out, select that skill for development first.  Once you’ve selected the skill you want to develop, you have to draw up a plan of action to do so.  This might mean spending thirty minutes each day focusing on using that particular skill in your job, and in your hobby.  As an example, if you are trying to build self-confidence, you might read for 10 minutes from a book on attitude or confidence, and spend twenty doing things that build confidence, such as deliberately making yourself as big as possible (this isn’t a joke, try sitting in a chair at work or home, and making yourself as big and dominant as possible for ten minutes, and see how you feel).  Whatever action you take may feel silly at first, but as you sharpen your skill, it will feel less silly. Focus on developing this skill every day for sixty days; or once a week for a year. Once that time period has elapsed, take stock in where you are in your skill level; you are certain to have gotten a lot better.

Although it should be obvious at this point, I’ll point out that you must write down your plan of action if you want it to be effective.  There is an important reason to write down any plan of action you intend to take, as by doing so, you are not only firming it in your mind, but you have something physical to look at and review.  Keep this plan of action safe, and read it aloud at least once every day.  

Remember, in order to develop your skills:

  1. Do a self-inventory of your skillset.
    1. What skills do you have from your vocation?
    2. What skills do you have from hobbies?
    3. What skills do you have acquired from other sources?
  2. Rate your skill level in each one from 1 to 100, being as honest as possible.
  3. Select a skill you want to develop, preferably one that is used in both vocation and hobby.
  4. Draw up a plan of action and write it down.
  5. Read it aloud daily.
  6. Act on it daily.

To help with this endeavor, I have created a worksheet for you to do your skills inventory on, although a simple piece of notebook paper would suffice.  If you’re of the gaming ilk, you can also use skills sheets from any D20 system game; it can make the exercise a lot more entertaining. You can download it from the link below.

Fans of Napoleon Hill will realize that I developed this article out of the formula he uses in his masterwork Think and Grow Rich, by adding my own experiences and synthesizing them together.  It worked when I decided to spend an entire year developing my defensive skills in fencing; it worked when I developed certain skills in my vocation; and it’s worked as I’ve developed skills as a father.  You can find the book here.

The Manor’s Official Position on “Vox Adpocalypse” and YouTube’s Response

From the Desk of Julien McBain:

As a content creator on YouTube, the continued smooth operation of the platform is of critical importance to the Manor, the Trust that underlies it, and myself. As a creator, I have taken great pains to avoid, to the extent that is possible, politics in recent months, as the United States and the world as a whole becomes ever more polarized. It has become increasingly difficult to hold to this principle, despite largely avoiding social media platforms except where necessary. As a rule, the Manor avoids making statements regarding policy positions except where they may directly or indirectly affect the Manor or the Trust. There are people within the Manor’s small infrastructure and sphere of influence that span the political spectrum and have a range of opinions on virtually any matter of policy; while it may be a function of the feudal nature of the Trust architecture, this is something we at McBain Manor, and the McBain Manorial Trust, value.

Recently, YouTube, at the behest of creator Christopher Maza, investigated and demonitized another YouTuber, Steven Crowder. Along with the policy change that facilitated this, YouTube also demonitized dozens, if not more, accounts with content that broadly fit within the scope of hate speech, even if it was presented for historical and bona fide journalistic purposes. Their reasoning for doing so was incredibly vague, and has made YouTube the target of various influencers and journalists, particularly on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

The Manor feels the need to express that to its knowledge, none of its members, nor anyone associated with it, consumes the content of either Mr. Maza nor Mr. Crowder; nor are we interested in doing so. It is the Manor’s position that the entire underlying issue is infantile and the result of adults, namely the two content creators heretofore named, acting like children.

It is the concern of the Manor that YouTube has engaged in a practice that is concerning for the Manor’s commercial endeavors. It is the position of the Manor that YouTube is a private company and has a right to create terms of service for the use of its platform; it also has the right to police violations of those terms of service. It is also the position of the Manor that YouTube has an obligation to its creators to ensure those terms of service are clear, and that changes are not retroactively applied. As the primary content of the Manor is based in video gaming, and YouTube’s rules regarding speech that permits demonitization have been changed and presented in a very vague fashion, it is concerning that playing a game, where such language is part of the plot, such as historical or speculative fiction may cause the channel(s) associated with the Manor to be demonetized, should the Manor become for monetization in the future.

The Manor therefore expresses its wish that YouTube publish a definitive and precise policy that has express criteria for what constitutes content that will be demonetized. The current content, and YouTube’s response regarding this whole matter has deeply concerned the Manor, and we would like to see some consistency on the platform that holds much of the Manor’s future in its hands. If YouTube has decided that it is a publisher, then we as content creators deserve to have the rules plainly and precisely laid out, so that if a violation is made, it is clear why it was a violation. If YouTube is a platform, we would express that as a platform, policing speech that is not illegal may invite further regulation by the US Government, and should it be found to be classified as a public space and therefore subject to the First Amendment, policing such speech would be in violation of it.

By my own Hand,

Julien McBain, Trustee

That Project? Start Now.

Many of us, including myself, find ourselves procrastinating on starting a project because we feel we aren’t ready for it.  “I don’t have the skills,” or “I can’t find the time”, or even worse, “what if I fail?”. These demotivations are endemic to the human condition, and are the biggest problem we all have when trying to decide whether or not to try something new.  Now this isn’t to say that you’re guaranteed to succeed–you aren’t. In fact, failure is inevitable; but if you never fail, you will never succeed.  Each failure is the springboard toward eventual success, and as long as you keep trying, and learn from your mistakes, you will succeed in any endeavor.

George Hebert, a Welsh poet that lived in the mid-1500s once said, “do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’.  Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”  This sentiment is mirrored in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, written almost four centuries later, and has served as the mantra for many high-performance, and successful, people.

The issue isn’t that we don’t have the ability to accomplish what we set out to accomplish–it’s that we get stuck in our heads with what we feel our inadequacies are.  When we feel we aren’t worthy of the reward at the end of a journey, we begin to self-sabotage. This self-sabotage is the reason most people live their lives in a state of patient medocracy; they settle for what’s good enough, because they don’t feel that they deserve better.  In most cases, they know that if they worked a little harder, or pushed a little more, they could take that next step; but there is the counterweight of knowing that once you start pushing that extra step, you may be expected to maintain that extra pace indefinitely.

A good example that I can personally relate is that of my journey as a content creator.  When I started my channel in ernest, in June of 2018 with the idea that I would commit to operating it for at least one year, I had no clue as to what I was doing.  I had been using my YouTube channel to post videos of World of Warcraft dungeon runs for my guildmates to review and improve our performance at it; I had no desire nor drive to post regular content.  Then when I started watching how much other content creators were enjoying the work, I thought I might want to give it a try. I mean, why not?  Engage with members of a community that I was a part of, and maybe someone would find something helpful. At worst, I’ll be in no worse position than I already am.

So I started posting Entropia Universe videos, twice a week.  Needless to say, at first they were rather disorganized; I had no clue as to what I was doing, and was still trying to determine my niche in the EU Creator space.  Frankly speaking, there are days I’m still not positive as to what it is. None of that matters. What matters is that I continue to create content, and over time, my audience has been slowly building.  Can I improve? Of course, and I believe that I am slowly improving with every video, every blog, and every piece of fiction. Over time, my skills are increasing, much like the individual skill bars on my EU avatar.

The point of all this is, you can accomplish anything you set out to achieve, if you have the right mindset.  That doesn’t there won’t be hard work; quite the contrary, nothing worth doing is easy, and nothing worth achieving doesn’t require work.  General Colin Powell once said something to illustrate this: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”  So prepare yourself for the journey ahead, without letting that preparation fall into procrastination; work hard at whatever goals you set for yourself, using the five elements of goal setting I spoke of in the McBain Moments on the subject (see below), and every time you fail, ask yourself what is one thing you can learn from that mistake that you will not repeat.

Most importantly of all, never give up.  You can achieve what it is you set out to achieve, if you only give yourself the opportunity to acquire the tools to do so.

The Importance of Desire

When most people think of desire, they often think of personal relationships.  Desire is desperately necessary to maintain relationships with your significant other, as without that desire, there is no effort.  What many forget, is that desire, as an emotion, is also the driving force behind all actions and achievements that we endeavor to accomplish, no matter what that goal happens to be.  All it takes is a single idea, desire, and the persistence to push through all adversity, to be successful.

Therein lies the issue, however.  Too many people see desire as an idle emotion, something used to long after a better circumstance and continue grinding at what they are doing without making any changes to their existing circumstance.  In fact, that is not desire, but a form of laziness; let’s call it pining.  Pining does nothing; it’s an emotion that wants success for no more effort than you are already giving, or without changing the methods you are using.  This is a basic human trait; after all, no one likes leaving their comfort zone. Comfort is an easy routine, acceptance of limitations and the socio-economic position that comes with.  For some, that means a good job, an average salary, a nice family, a decent house and a tight but functioning retirement. There is no shame in such a life, and to a certain point, it is a form of success, especially if the circumstance started from was poverty or joblessness.  There could also be other factors, such as mental illness, physical disability, economic downturn, disaster either natural or artificial.

That said, if you have the desire to go further, and the willingness to do what it takes to go one step further, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your family, and your community, if you don’t.  Even if it means only doing one more hour of work on a side hustle, or pushing yourself to do that extra hour of study for your night school, that effort will pay greater dividends the longer you produce that effort.  The most important thing of all–through the pain, tired, blood, sweat, tears, and late nights, is that you continue to persist through it all.

For those readers that are also Entropia Universe players, BIG Industries, that four person mastermind group that runs the most successful player-run company on Calypso would use the term “Embrace the Grind”.  This is vitally important to your success overall, as life itself is in fact a grind; but do not under any circumstance submit to the grind.  Instead of submission to the grind, you need to dominate the grind, master it, and in doing so master your own life.  The key to doing this is having the desire to do so, and coming up with a definitive plan to accomplish whatever goal you set for yourself–then hold yourself accountable.  

This doesn’t mean you tyrannize yourself either; don’t allow a failure to push you into accepting that failure as the final step.  If you fail nine times, try ten. When you fail, review what you did, what worked, what didn’t, and try again by strengthening what worked and omitting what didn’t, replacing what doesn’t work with new procedures or steps.  What matters isn’t when you succeed; or to a certain extent even if you succeed. What matters is that you never lose the desire to accomplish the goal you set, and that you never stop trying.

Lokism: Progress, not Perfection

Many of us strive for perfection, seeking to become not only the best, but absolutely flawless at what we are practicing.  It doesn’t matter what the particular skill is either; it can be fencing, accounting, sales, even “zone defense” (the Walmartism for facing, fronting, and making sure all product is in its expected place).  The trouble with perfection is that it rarely comes, and the psychology of the human mind not only contributes to this issue, it is likely to cause more problems by discouraging you from continuing to practice.  This is the irony of the human condition: we strive for perfection, but when we miss it once, we are less likely to achieve it later. This is due to the levels of dopamine and cortisol, the pleasure and stress hormones, respectively, that are released into our system when we experience success and failure.  An oversimplification, of course, and there are more chemicals involved, but those are the two biggest ones.

Overcoming 350 million year old biology isn’t easy, but it is necessary; you won’t accomplish anything if you let self-doubt get in the way.  Self-doubt is the killer of futures and ambition; it walks in with the dedicated mission of making you decide not to take a risk. The risk might not even be all that great–it may be no more than a possible embarrassment, or more likely, feeling embarrassed over what was done, despite no one else thinking of it as embarrassing.  This is why so many would-be content creators never get their start–they doubt their ability to create the content they want to make, thus never make any content.

In fact, this is something I grappled with for a long time.  Still do, on a daily basis, and I push out YouTube content seven days a week along with producing this weekly blog, occasional short stories (which are going to become less occasional), and a bloody published book that I pulled from circulation and am republishing. This is due to the fear that the content we create, whether video, written, drawn, sung, carved, or otherwise created will not only be inadequate, but ridiculed.  We hate the idea that what we think is worth saying isn’t worth listening to, largely because as a species, we are somewhat selfish and want to be seen as an expert in something.  I mean look at me, I’m sitting behind a computer and typing a combination of motivational and psychological information pulled together from different sources, and I’m far from a traditional “expert”.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what your first piece of content looks or sounds like; you will look at even the most polished piece you do now in ten years and reflect on how much you learned from it.  Your first video, blog, book, article, webinar, will be garbage compared to what you do in ten years. Even if you’re making high-quality content now, it will pale in comparison to what you make in ten years; because making content is like a skill in a video game; the more you grind it out, the more you use it, the better the skill gets.  Even in those games that don’t have hard core skill systems; World of Warcraft dumped most of its skill systems, but the mechanics of the bosses, your rotation, strategic use of cooldowns, are all skills.  Creating content is no different. The important part is that you strive for progress, and not for perfection. Perfection only comes after years of hard work; so get out there and start doing the work.  Today.  Now. You will not develop the skill you want, or make the money you want, or build the business you want, if you just keep thinking about it.  Put actions to your words, and start making progress.

Figuring Out Success

“Work hard and you’ll be successful.”  What is the basis of this statement, and how do we create an action plan to make it happen?  The most successful people, perhaps those defined as “high performance” people, often wake up early, work upwards of twelve hours a day, and bet the farm on every action they take.  You can spend an hour on YouTube watching motivational or business development videos on the subject, and it’s hard to deny that the people in those videos are successful. It’s also easy to consider that it doesn’t matter what walk of life you originate from–anyone, from any social position, can put the time in and become rich, if they find the right formula, watch their timing, and are willing to risk everything.

There are other factors though.  Roughly 10% of the population doesn’t have enough intelligence to join the military, let alone become a high-performance businessperson.  This isn’t their fault–intelligence is a factor of nature, and IQ is something we’re born with. While often disparaged, IQ is a good indicator of whether or not a person will be successful, so long as they remain properly motivated.  It doesn’t have to be the often, though not always, paper-thin motivation of motivational speakers either; it is far more likely that the motivation they have comes from some form of inner drive. Which is not to say that motivational speeches don’t help; Admiral William H McRaven came up with one of the most effective motivational speeches I have ever heard, and it frankly changed my life.  In fact, I doubt I would have been nearly as receptive to the books and speeches made by other speakers, who I have spoken of ad nauseum, had I not heard his “Make Your Bed” speech given in 2014 at the University of Texas at Austin commencement. In the last four months, it has dynamically changed how I handle my day to day life, and how I handle stress and challenges.

Therefore success can be measured as a function of motivation and IQ, although to what extent each factor of that function plays a role in success is unknown at this point, at least to me.  As complex as we are, it’s entirely possible that the factors work differently for each person, and why shouldn’t it? We are by far the most complex organism on planet Earth, and we haven’t even begun to figure out the more nuanced parts of ourselves.  In fact, we’re so complicated that medical science only recently discovered that the interstitium, that layer of tissue that surrounds our organs and keeps them all in a well organized group, is actually a fully functioning and critical organ. For over a century, surgeons have cut through this tissue with disregard, as it had no obvious function.  Unsurprisingly, the Medical community has reevaluated how they do surgery, and less invasive methods are being developed. That Medical Doctors, some of the most intelligent and learned people in our society as a whole, could have missed that they were cutting through an organ ignorant of its function, is just an example of how we don’t know nearly enough about ourselves as a species yet; far from being a criticism of the Medical community, lt is an illustration that we must all strive to learn more about ourselves, and what we are capable of.

So how do we turn this into success?  It will differ for each of us, and far from a cop-out answer that it sounds like, there is a reason for that.  First, most of us don’t even have a definition of what success would be for us, let alone how to achieve it. That would be your first goal–to determine what you want out of life.  It doesn’t matter what that goal is, because there are any number of factors that will affect it; for a person that has clinical depression, the goal might be staying out of bed for more than an hour at a time.  For a person that is “high performance”, whatever that means, it might be getting to a million dollars. There are several factors that we need to consider before deciding what goals to set, and the underlying criteria for success are.  We each define success differently, and have different goals to achieve it.

The biggest mistake people make when they decide what their view of success is, is to keep it far too abstract.  Without a concrete picture of what you’re aiming for, how are you supposed to know if you’ve achieved it? Even if your life goal is still an amorphous blob of the unknown, having a short term or immediate goal is important, and either voicing or writing that goal down in concrete terms is critical to achieving it.  If you voice it, you affirm to yourself, and others what your goal is. If you write it down, you have a record and means to hold yourself accountable for its success. Most importantly, if you do fail to achieve your goal within the required or expected time frame, because a goal must by its nature be contained within a time frame for it to be a goal rather than a dream, do not take the failure personally; use it as an opportunity to learn what you need to either attempt it again, or if that’s not possible, to use what you learned in your next endeavor.

Remember, everything is an opportunity; even failure.  Success comes by recognizing opportunities as they come, and taking the risk.

Noble Habitus: Honour

In modern society, we have many examples and stereotypes of what Honour means.  From the knights and chivalry, to the Klingons of Star Trek and their unique, brutal, but well codified honour system, to the Orcs of Warcraft and the strict code of the Clans in Battletech, the concept of honour has filled our stories and legends from the writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh.  In almost all cases, there are two sides to the coin that constitutes honourable conduct, one where the warrior is honest in all aspects of life and how he handles himself; and two where the warrior must always show courage in the face of death.

Knights were expected to uphold the Noble Habitus throughout their day to day lives, in addition to the time they spent in service to the crown.  It was a code to which you dedicated your whole being, even before it was codified, so that you could serve as the best leader, and your people would thrive.  Honour was the binding force to the code, to ensure that all aspects of the code were integrated into your lifestyle, and your actions could always be squared by it.  When someone entered a room and saw you, the knight with a reputation for honour present, they would immediately know how to conduct themselves with you.

This has a two-sided benefit to it.  When a person meets with, and is dealing with a person of honourable reputation, it is easy for them to deal honourably as well.  When you know the integrity of the person you’re dealing with, you don’t have to face making a judgement call on them during the negotiation.  This makes an honest negotiator much more comfortable, as they will not have to worry about the nobleman trying to use their power to unduly unbalance the negotiation.  This can be true of any negotiation, whether monetary, or for service, or to render judgement on a civil matter.

It also made those less honourable take pause.  While a generally honourable civil servant, often in service to the knight could be convinced that a negotiation would be more beneficial to both individuals at the expense of a third party, often the village itself, a Knight would as likely as not punish the swindler for his actions.  Punishment for betraying a knight’s honour was often as harsh as punishment for murder, for a knight that violated his own honour could expect exile or death as a response.

A knight that violated his own honour usually took the nature of said knight running away from the enemy.  In a world where loyalty to your Lord, and a vow to fight on his behalf secured your lifestyle, pusillanimus behaviour, an interesting term for cowardice that is now often shortened to the same slang word used to crudely describe womens’ anatomy, was the worst transgression a Knight could display.  Without courage in battle, there was no way the knight could be trusted to hold his lands in trust for his Lord, nor could he be trusted to protect the weak from evil. A knight with no courage, was no knight at all.

Thus this often forms the core of fictional honour systems, with courage in the face of adversity or even certain death being a centerpiece of the honour of entire fictional tribes, clans, or nations.  Often in these societies slights are answered for in combat, with challenges ranging from the simple challenge of Klingon culture to the much more ritualized Trials faced by Clanners, which could be organized against any organization level in their culture, even against whole clans.  We use these fictional examples to show the extreme of the notion, but also to glorify the concept; while Bushido is no longer a standard, for example, it is still held to be one of the most important codes to have ever existed.

Honour is the glue that binds the Noble Habitus to the person, and synthesizes it with your being.  If you intend to utilize the code in your daily life, you must do so with Honour.

The Noble Habitus: The Davidic Ethic

The Davidic Ethic is the heart of the Noble Habitus, and is the most stereotypical part of the code.  It boils down to a “magnanimous personality”, someone that is generous and forgiving to another, especially if that other person is weaker, or of a lower social status than the knight.  

It’s is predicated on the idea that a knight must stand up for the weak against the forces of evil; and the strength of the knight shall always be in that service.  No knight that is worth his oath of fealty treats the weak poorly, and indeed would be the target of other, more righteous knights should he be so. The concept of the Black Knight encapsulates this principle, as all knights rally around a banner to defeat their fallen, unforgivable brother.

This also might have been the origin of the courtesy which knights give to women generally, at least in stories, as historically women have had a lower social status, relatively speaking, then men, at least prior to the modern age.  Although this isn’t true across the board, especially when it came to royalty in England in particular, with its history of indomitable queens, including the one that reigns currently, it was frequently the case, especially in continental Europe, and moreso in the lower nobility and commoner classes.

The strong must always be benevolent toward the weak, and protect them from the forces of evil or malevolence that exist outside their ability to handle.  It is the duty of the strong, in fact, to use their shield to shield the weak before themselves, and their sword against those who would do them harm, even prior to protecting oneself.  The Ethic, perhaps older than several other knightly traits at least in refinement thanks to the proliferation of Biblical stories, may be the ultimate origin of the heretofore mentioned Largesse expectation.  In this case though, instead of an expectation of monetary charity, it is the willingness to put your own life on the line for those under your care.

The knight, being a caretaker of people both physically and monetarily, therefore earned his place as a leader in society, either of men in the battlefield, or of serfs and freedmen in his demesne.  The Ethic provided the knight the moral tools to administer to his lands and the lands of those in his care, with reverence to the law and equal loyalty to his king, and those who were bound to him. This balance, and good maintenance of it, was critical to the knight maintaining power, or accumulating more.  Treat your people poorly, and they were likely to rise up, and attack you or assassinate you in your home, castle or not, consequences be damned. After all, if you are killed by a mob, it’s unlikely you hadn’t earned the honour; although leaders of the mob may be tried and punished, it would be too damaging to the demesne to hang them all.  Even a knight can be replaced relatively easily if the people yearn for better leadership. Fail to serve your king and pay your knight’s fee, and you may find yourself with the troops of neighboring knights at your doorstep, or worse, the king himself at the head of a host looking for your head.

Thus the knight was constrained by limitations placed upon him by the very power that granted him his station.  Invested in this station would be further power over those he ruled over, tempered by the expectation of the Ethic.  In most jurisdictions, the holder of a demesne was also holder of Justice, high, middle, and low, especially if the knight also held the title of Baron, as they often did.  Knights serving a Baron might only be able to dispense with middle and low justice, or to arrest and bring to the Baronial Court for justice to be meted, but the power of arrest is in most cases, also the power to dispense punishment, especially if the person to be arrested fees, or resists.

These controls are now most often seen in the limits of power for people in positions where force is still permitted.  Police officers and soldiers are given bounds of jurisdiction, and limits to when force can be employed. In today’s age, with courts divorced from the position of the leadership in an effort to separate powers, the accused are now brought before a magistrate, or other judicial officer, and tried before someone charged with giving justice impartially.  So while knights today, insofar as they exist, no longer carry out those duties, they are instead diffused to other professions and offices in our society.

The Noble Habitus: Largesse

Largesse has a number of names associated with it, including charity, liberality, and generosity.  It was considered a noble trait, and therefore knightly, to provide sustenance to the poor and distressed within one’s means, so long as it did not inconvenience the noble.  This traced back to the Roman Empire, where wealthy members of the Patrician class would give small gifts of food or money to the people they patroned. This money would then help the plebeians they patronized buy food, access learning opportunities, and replace damaged togas.  As members of the plebeian class, through industrious work or luck, rose to become nobilite (noble plebeians), they would often also patron those less fortunate or less successful than themselves.  

Thus, it was considered important as a matter of the character of a noble, whether by birth or self-made, to voluntarily give a portion of your wealth back to the people, generally by patronizing those that had some connection to your family, or were working on a project you felt was worthy.  Such patronage was the norm from the classical era though the middle ages, as barons and other members of the noble class selected freedmen to offer assistance to, or provide for artists, philosophers, or other early intellectuals whether or not they were directly associated with the church. In this context, while tithing was still the norm, the noble might also patron a specific monastery or convent that was dedicating its research and prayer to a particular subject.

There is more to Largesse than simple charity, however.  Largesse was also a proscription against greed; while considered one of the deadly sins of the New Testament, that came later, as the groundwork for the Noble Habitus was laid long before the birth of Christ.  Greed would tempt the knight into unworthy behaviour, causing him to conduct himself for the strict pursuance of wealth alone. While this was often forgiven of someone that was not of noble status, after all, most serfs and freedmen were lucky to have enough to eat most years, a knight would theoretically be in a position to have all of his needs pre-fulfilled.  Therefore, while he may not have the wealth of the baron or duke, he was well taken care of and could pursue wealth through righteous conquest and sanctioned warfare, like any proper knight.

Of course, there was a practical side to this theory as well; a knight that was greedy could be bought off, and betray his baron or king, helping bring a rival noble or enemy nation into the lands of his Lord and assist in his overthrow.  Such a knight, promised wealth or lands, which were the same thing in those times, would be considered beneath the contempt of his own serfs, and would likely be subject to invasion and rebuke from the allies of his former Lord. Unlike a normal turnover of land, the former knight, for no matter what title he carried he would have clearly forsaken his honor, would be targeted in ernest to be punished for his betrayal.

The purpose of Largesse was not to prevent a knight from accumulating too much wealth, but rather to remind him that he is responsible to the people he is Lord over and represents in Court.  It also reminded him that when his people are healthy and happy, so are his lands, and his coffers.