Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

About

How do you maintain a website like this when your views change more often than you change clothes, when you can’t go through a single conversation without saying “well, you do have a point, I should rethink that?”

When I first named and created it, “Ask Vinni” was supposed to be long articles on fairly complicated topics and my take on a few of the questions posed to me. It started out well, like most creative endeavors do. I was hammering out words and writing articles whenever I found the time to, I created a schedule and stuck to it.

And then, nothing.

Although I could blame a variety of things—university, work, my summer job—it’s time I take responsibility for what I set out—and failed— to do.

It’s not who you are, it’s what you do

Every so often, we may fall into the trap of wishing people could see inside our minds. See what we truly think but can’t express, what we’d like to do but haven’t put the hours into just yet. We wish they could see all of our yet unfulfilled dreams, aspirations, all the good we’re yet to do for the world.

Every so often, after one interaction or another—be it with customers, friends, or even dates—I’d leave feeling a little disappointed. I thought maybe, if the person had seen what was going through my mind, it would have been different. If they knew how my day or week had been, they’d have understood why I didn’t put my best foot forward. Or maybe if they had just seen what I thought about saying but didn’t say. Yes, I know how self centered and irrational that thought is.

Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther

“Live while you live, then die and be done with.”
— John Gunther Jr.

206864It should come as no surprise that I’m partial to books about death.

While there’s a lot of negative things, a lot of fear surrounding the word and topic, I often found a certain peace, a certain ultimate good behind it.

What attracts me so much to it is that I’ve always seen death as a big motivator. Because of death, we live. We need death because we need the urgency. We need life to be as short as it is because we need to make the most of it.

Often when hearing stories of people who got terminal diseases, we hear stories of people who gave up and died shortly thereafter.

But for every one of those stories, there are ones of triumph, like in Death Be Not Proud. A memoire of the last 15 months of a (at the time of death) 17 year old boy who fought to the very end. The book had all to become a statement of grief, but instead, John Gunther beautifully writes about his son’s struggle; a boy so special that I couldn’t help but cheer for him to the very end, although what would happen was clear from the start.

It’s often by reading about death that we find an urge to live, and this was no different. The boy made a bigger impact in his 17 years than most people will in a lifetime.

That is, unless we get off our asses and start moving.

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille

44846After months trying to get into a (reading) routine, this is the book that might have gotten me there.

 Simply put, Clotaire Rapaille puts out some fascinating theories about how people, countries and cultures work. So fascinating in fact, that I don’t care if it’s wrong.

What is the book anyway? In its essential, barebones form, the author takes a concept (love, food, work, alcohol) and explains how a culture (mostly the American, where he’s based) sees it. So the code for health might be movement, while doctors might be heroes and nurses moms. He argues that the culture as a whole sees the concept through those glasses, and anyone trying to market any product would be silly to go against the codes.

Now, I’m not American. My experience with America has been limited to the internet and the countless Americans I’ve met abroad. But in many ways, the codes he suggests seemed to ring a bell. Not only that, but it got me to think much more about how I myself see each of those things, how they were imparted by my culture and how much I’ve been influenced by the places I’ve lived in over the years.

What I found particularly fascinating is the small section he dedicated to telling his background in moving to the USA from France. He had his “American” ideals and went against much of the French culture codes. When arriving in the US, he met more French people and couldn’t help but ask himself if they were really French; they were seeing things through American glasses.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

27036528It’s not hard to be a fan of Ryan Holiday. His books are accessible and often about topics that I already care about. He has a lot of knowledge and is always searching for more, that’s obvious to everyone who’s heard of him.

It’s also not hard to recognize that humility is a good and important thing and that ego is bad; that we should always seek improvement and hold ourselves to high standards, rise above any setbacks and most importantly, not get full of ourselves when we succeed on something.

Still, it is oftentimes necessary to restate the obvious, lest we forget it. We need to illustrate common knowledge with stories if we are to grasp it and live it.

Having someone like Ryan write a book like this ensures we have enough examples, both good and bad. His focus, much like mine, is on practical knowledge and applying the learning to our lives.

The struggle against the ego is just about the most practical and important obstacle we all face at one point or another, and revisiting this book will be part of my fight.

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