Karl Hadwen

In pursuit of mastery. Reading a book a day.

How Taking a Break Can Really Help You Succeed In Business

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Take a break, you’ll become a better business owner/entrepreneur.

If you own a business, hard work is essential. We all hear a lot about the benefits of working hard and working smart, educating yourself and keeping ahead of the competition. No doubt, all these things are very important for making a success of your business and most business owners and entrepreneurs do actually put in an enormous amount of time and effort into their work. There is a widely held belief that you can relax once the business gets going, once you have had that next big contract, once you break even, once you have paid off any bank loans, and any number of reasons to put off taking some time off. But this is not a good idea. Taking a break from work leads to a healthier work environment and better frame of mind, which in turn can help your business do better.

 

Make Exercising a Priority

Regular exercise helps releasing endorphin which gives you an energy boost, increases clarity of thought, improves your memory and makes you happier. People are more likely to be more productive if they exercise every day. Taking time off for a few minutes of exercising also makes people better team players. Time management also improve drastically for those who work out.

 

Make Time For Family and Friends

No matter how important your work is or how much of an identity it gives you, family is an even more integral part of life. A lot of entrepreneurs realise that they spend far too much time at work and not enough at home with the loved ones. Spend a few hours with your family every day. This helps in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, which in turn helps in increasing productivity. Going off on holidays and spending time with friends are all essential for long-term planning of both your personal life and your business.

 

Take That Lunch Break

Way too often, busy workers skip their lunches and eat after finishing work. This habit is not just unhealthy, it is also counter-productive in many ways. Eating on time and eating the right kind of foods will help increase your productivity. There is a reason why companies have lunch breaks. You can also take a few more minutes off once in a while and go on a quick shopping expedition, or even just have lunch outside. Whatever you do, make sure you get off that desk!

 

Take a Vacation

If you are working hard all through the year, you don’t just deserve a vacation, you actually need one. Getting away for a few days and experiencing new things will help you grow as a person. Go on a cruise, fly away to a foreign country, go hiking, or just enjoy a seaside holiday. When you return back to work, you will feel doubly refreshed and your productivity will increase.

 

Nature’s Cure

If you are lucky enough to work near or live near green spaces, take advantage of the fact and go for short walks. Communing with nature has a direct impact on productivity at work. Research has also shown that people working in green areas experience lower stress levels, which results in a better work culture.

In short, taking a break from work has been consistently proved to be a tool for better productivity and leads to a better long-term vision for the workplace and the company, as well as for the entrepreneur. Whether it is just for an hour or a complete break from work for a vacation, it is essential for everyone to relax and recuperate their energy levels. Taking regular breaks also ensures that stress levels are kept at a minimum. With a relaxed and stress-free mind and body, you will be able to provide better concentration at work, have more energy and work better. So take that break if you want to succeed in your business!

Buddhist Philosophy

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The mind is everything. What you think you become. ― Buddha

Buddhism is a religion originating from India, but its varieties have survived outside the land of its origin — predominantly Asian—countries like Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand and others. It is becoming more and more popular in the West, especially among celebrities and wealthy people, but also among those who have lost their faith in their “traditional” religions and seek for alternative ways to spiritual fulfilment.

Any devoted Buddhist would deny the existence of Buddhist philosophy, and it is true that it is not a philosophy in a traditional sense. It does not originate from wonder, or any type of curiosity — Aristotle said that “philosophy begins with wonder” — but from a deep need for salvation and a wish to cope with suffering.

On the other hand, Buddhism could be called a philosophy because it fits in the definition, which is “love for wisdom”. People observe it more as a philosophy than as a religion, sometimes referring to it as “atheistic”, which is etymologically true since Buddha never called himself a deity, or God — there are no Gods, there is no God as a supreme being, creator and ruler of all — and most religions admit the existence of such a being: it is the basis of religion, after all.

For a Buddhist, the purpose of life is not to serve some god, but rather to attain Enlightenment, which could be done by following Buddha’s teaching. Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Supreme Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was driven by his innermost need to end suffering, thus he discovered The Four Noble Truths: 1. Everything is suffering (dukkha); 2. Suffering comes from craving for material things which give us temporary pleasure; 3. We can put an end to suffering by understanding its causes; 4. One can end suffering by following the Noble Eightfold path.

The cessation of suffering could be called the Enlightenment, bliss, or nirvana. It also could be equated with the “cessation of the self” or anatta. Anatta means no-self among some Buddhist traditions such as Thai Forest Tradition. Buddha is not just the one who is awake, he is rather the awake-ness itself, Buddha is the state of wakefulness, not just some person who possesses “buddhahood” as a trait. He is the one who is not.

It seems that language, with all its logic, cannot comprehend these statements, because it always goes around and around, never being able to hit the centre. That’s why it was said that Buddha kept silent to metaphysical questions — something which 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had also concluded, stating that one must remain silent on issues which could not be spoken about, like the concept of God and all other metaphysical concepts. Even Buddha’s firsthand disciples had a rough time trying to transform his teachings into words and scripts, and it could be even harder now since cultural and language gap between East and West is so large, although Buddhism is more popular in the West now then in the East. That’s why we might need Buddhist philosophy, to find the most appropriate way to interpret those concepts we often take for granted — for example, we interpret nirvana as bliss, unaware of that cultural gap, and thus we, in fact, misinterpret it. The same goes for concepts of other Eastern religions, like Tao, which is translated as “the way”, because we do not have a word for “that which passes through itself by itself” which is what Tao actually means. And the list goes on.

But, there seems to be nothing wrong in those Western interpretations of Buddha’s teachings, because his teachings were straight to the point and were able to survive cultural transition.

Theravada branch of Buddhism transited to the West through the Vipassana movement which emphasizes the need for personal salvation through meditation and nullifying the effects of karma by “stopping the wheel of samsara”. Another main branch of Buddhism, Mahayana, is also very popular since its derivative, Zen, is one of the most famous Buddhist schools. One of the key concepts Zen uses to gain insight into the nature of reality is The Middle Way, or The Middle Path — a method which Gautama Buddha had also suggested in his teachings when trying to find out a path which we should take when we search for ourselves. It is “neither this nor that”. The Middle Way transcends the opposites, it advises us to go straight through the middle and cut like a knife through existence, dive into it. Opposites do not matter, so just evade them, nothing is “really real”, neither light nor darkness, but you are the one who penetrates both, thus outgrowing them. Only consciousness is permanent. Zen is one of philosophically most interesting Buddhist schools, although there is not so much to be discussed in Zen — it’s methods hit the very essence of being, language is futile as a medium, as it tempts you decide “either this or that”. In contrast to that, the goal of Zen is enabling you to directly, immediately experience that flash of consciousness, that bedazzlement with the absurdity of existence. Neither this nor that.

Being Superhuman

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Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it. ― Ray Kurzweil

Will we ever live in an age of superhumans? The Übermensch, the more-than-human, taps into the notion that “man is something that shall be overcome,” and though Friedrich Nietzsche first coined this idea in the nineteenth century, the goal of reaching a state of higher consciousness is nothing new among us humans.

Of course, I tend to lose track of this fact during my daily routine. However, every time I reach for that extra cup of coffee, I secretly hope that it will sharpen my wits and propel me through the day. I am sipping a piece of cognition-enhancing biotechnology unavailable to the Neanderthal man.

Caffeine represents one of the many cognitive-enhancing supplements out there for the average bloke and is one of many nootropic drugs—drugs that improve mental performance in one way or another. While caffeine is perhaps the most common non-prescription nootropic drug, several specially designed supplements are currently available that have rather different effects. In an article for the Atlantic Monthly, Ari Levaux recounts his experience with Alpha Brain, one such nootropic cocktail in which he experienced “quite long” and vivid dreams which left him awake in the morning “surprisingly refreshed.” Levaux went on a hunt later in the day, successfully bringing in four deer.

A hunter like Levaux could have opted for steroids or stimulants to increase his physical strength but decided to beef-up his mental strength and acuity instead. Whereas our poor Neanderthal might have been left with only one deer at the end of the day—due both to his poorly designed weapons and his lack of the Alpha Brain supplement—Levaux caught a handsome batch of four deer, which provide both more food and raw material for shelter and clothing. In the case of the hunter, this improvement in mental acuity relaxes the influence that forces in nature have on individuals like Levaux. Deer seem to move slower, dark areas appear more navigable, and fatigue becomes less noticeable.

It is no wonder that some researchers claim that this represents an example of how our human smarts have decreased evolution’s dominion over us. No drug we develop will ever make the human body faster than the cheetah, but cognitive improvements might make such a disadvantage a moot point evolutionarily. After all, our brains are our most valuable assets biologically: humans have an encephalisation quotient (EQ) of about 7.5, which is a ratio of actual brain size to expected brain size (based on body weight and other factors). The shrewd bottlenose dolphin has an EQ of 4.1, while the more humble domestic cat clocks in at 1.0. Instead of giving us stronger muscles or nifty wings, nature endowed us with a particularly complex nervous system.

Ray Kurzweil envisions the possibility that “we can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.” If he is correct, then much of this spiritual undertaking has already begun in our daily cup of coffee, crossword puzzle, or nootropic supplement—items, however subtle, that were developed by a culture of rational human beings for the betterment of their own condition. Our own human nature essentially implies a post-human one: our capacity to know nature also contains a hidden capacity to develop technologies that make up for our deficiencies—a cognitive “two-for-one” deal. Perhaps being superhuman—being Übermensch—involves patterning one’s inner self in a way that would have come as quite a surprise to Nietzsche.

Mortality

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When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

We are the only species that understands that we are going to die. But can humans really comprehend mortality? I don’t think so.

As children we don’t understand death. I know that as a child, I saw death as a religious beck and call. Death really didn’t feel real until I grew older and pondered what it was like to lose somebody, contemplating that everything around me will eventually cease to exist.

Death is the great equaliser: the only thing we know about it is that we have to undergo it. This final event is a tightly sealed black box thinkable only through the mass of allegories that philosophers and poets have penned about it—there are no scientific methods whatsoever to better acquaint ourselves with death.

We tend to avoid thinking about death (I know that I am a culprit myself). It’s a process that a lot of people contemplate from time to time—a natural process of our curiosity. In a lot of ways, in fact, we are “being” most truly human when we live in a way that takes into account the fact that we die, an idea explored by the likes of Martin Heidegger and William Shakespeare. But we unconsciously try to evade facing up to death despite the great responsibility it poses; we all want life to have meaning, and in some cases this excites a thirst for immortality, a hope that we can escape death itself. The garden of human distractions causes us to avoid thought about mortality—a cornucopia of religious, philosophical, and other inventive diversions. Below the radar of consciousness, though, every single emotion possesses a strand of our finitude and mortality.

Perhaps death is not the evil disease we make it out to be, but rather the ending to life without which life itself would have no meaning, no defining arch. Bernard Williams writes in his essay “The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality” that “we should hope to die before reaching this unavoidable point of stagnation and dullness.” Williams worries that if we transcend biology and push the boundaries of biotechnology, we could potentially become immortal—an unattractive prospect.

Would a post-human life really be completely boring and dull? The expanse of hundreds of years of a post-human existence might be nothing other than the uneventful postponement of the death that awaits all finite beings anyway. Even the infinitudes of time eventually become banal—the excruciating boredom of our daily routine, like waiting 30 minutes in line for lunch, is perhaps a reminder of this fact. And I, for one, find that lunch tastes better when I don’t have to wait 30 minutes for it.

To extrapolate, I think we will eventually (if we transcend the human body) be doped up humans without a human core. If we can overcome the boundaries of biology and technology, then there’s no logic in keeping our own brains or bodies. Humans can be selfish, running wild with willful egos: of course we want sharper intelligence, more capacious memory, and greater physical ability—in short, anything for the sake of our personal betterment.

If we transcend the human body by using biotechnology and nanotechnology, we could potentially live on another planet or near another star. Perhaps we are already predecessors of our post-human descendants with all the technology we use today. But could our improved grasp of biotechnology really create new rules for mortality and life? Maybe we could redefine mankind, constructing new rules for life immortal, rules that don’t involve loss, rules that don’t involve wiping out our loved ones. We could repeat the words of Immanuel Kant as we “attempt to change the old procedure of metaphysics and to bring about a complete revolution.”

As human begins we believe that we will eventually cease to exist here on earth and that no body else shall replace us. We have transiently stored memories, but these memories are eventually washed away and replaced with new memories, and a similar paradigm goes for death. We have a limited time in the world, and eventually, like every other generation, we are washed away and replaced. In the end, the thought of our own mortality nudges us along; it is a stick that prods us every time we don’t become fully immersed in life.