All posts by Hans Henrik Lichtenberg

Excellence and Habits – what Aristotle taught us

Do you want to achieve excellence in a field? If so, this short article is for you. The topic of achieving excellence is not an esoteric one, it is all about habits that you need to incorporate in your life. We will let you know some important guidelines right here right now from the best teacher, Artistotle. This will allow you to truly understand what excellence is all about.

Excellent is a Habit

According to Aristotle (read his complete works here: link) we become what we do on a regular basis. This is something that we need to take into consideration if we want to achieve excellence in anything we do these days. If you experience a higher sense of motivation and drive in your work and life, you will reap the rewards down the line. Making a high level of productivity a habit and you will truly have the upper hand.

Falling short of your potential is not something that you should encourage in your life, and that is something that you need to keep in mind as much as you can too.

New Habits

It is somewhat difficult for some people to develop new habits. You need to get out of your comfort zone as soon as you can so you can move to the next level in your life. Doing this will allow you to truly get a lot of rewards down the line. Make excellence a habit. Incorporate it into your daily habits, and you will see wonderful things happening in your life right away too.

Try to do the best job that you can do every single day of the day, and you will experience amazing things in your career.

Doing the Action

You have to work hard to incorporate excellence into your daily routines. Action is what will create what you want. If you want to become a generous person, practice that. If you want to save money so you can invest in your future, do that as soon as possible. Do not even think that you are going to become an excellent musician if you do not practice on a regular basis. You might sing very well today but tomorrow that might not be the case. You have to understand this if you are to become a successful musician, for instance.

Excellence is Life

Moral virtue is the first step to living a life of excellence. Your ethics and morals must be excellent so you can build your life over the best possible foundation. Do not believe anyone who says that morals are not something important in your life. Happiness is an important part of your life, and that is something that you need to achieve. Do not forget to mix experience and theory with your habits. If you want to become the best golf player, you have to study the best books about it and practice like crazy.

We have talked about what excellence entails so you can truly know a thing or two about it. Aristotle said that you have to incorporate this habit into your daily life so you can see what you can do. This habit can truly become something great for you. We cannot stress enough the fact that excellence is a habit. There is something that you need to bear in mind when it comes to excellence. The first thing is that you need to develop this habit yourself. You should do it yourself because no one else will do it for you. Action is an important part of developing the habit of excellence in your life. Do this and you can change your life for the better down the line. Make excellence an important part of your life and you will see something beautiful each day.

Practical Morality

Practical Morality with the subtitle: Or, a guide to men and manners. This is Jordan B. Peterson style moral advice for the youth back in 1848. It was written by Lord Chesterfield as advice to his son on how to behave in the world, and certainly on how not to behave. A large part of the book is amusing descriptions of bad behavior, bad habits, and sorry situations people will get entangled in when not knowing correct manners. Here is some from the chapter of the book on awkwardness:

When an awkward fellow first comes into a room, it is highly probable that his sword gets between his legs and throws him down, or makes him stumble at least; when he has recovered this accident, he goes and places himself in the very place of the whole room where he should not; there he soon lets his hat fall down, and in taking it up again, throws down his cane; in recovering his cane his hat falls the second time; so that he is a quarter of an hour before he is in order again. If he drinks tea or coffee, he certainly scalds his mouth and lets either the cup or the saucer fall and spills the tea or coffee in his breeches. At dinner his awkwardness distinguishes itself particularly, as he has more to do; there he holds his knife, fork, and spoon, differently from other people; eats with his knife to the great danger of his mouth, picks his teeth with his fork, and puts his spoon, which has been in his throat, twenty times, into the dishes again.

The book has a second part Maxims and Moral Reflections written by Duke De La Rochefoucault. This part is a collection of many short verses, such as:

Had we no faults ourselves, we should take less
pleasure in observing those of others.

Envy is destroyed by true friendship and coquetry
by true love.

Download the free PDF e-book here (291 pages/17MB):

 Practical Morality

Book: Morality and War

On august 27, 1928, a number of the largest and most powerful nations signed a pact that declared that they condemned recourse to war for the settlement of international differences, and renounced it as an instrument of national policy. The world had just witnessed the horrors of the WWI and it was clear that war would never lead to anything. In this book by Gerald Vann published in 1939, modern warfare is described as stripped of all its romantic glamour. With the flow of information through modern communication, the horrors of war will make it increasingly difficult to initiate war, the author reasons. The disadvantages of going to war will be so overwhelming, that overthrowing one’s own warmongering leader will always be preferable.

Morality and War describes a moral foundation for conflict solving in the modern world – just before the world went into a even more terrifying war. From the book:

There is nothing romantic about war to-day; and it is evidence alike of the power of propaganda and of the ability of human beings to close their eyes to realities that it should still be possible to think that there is. For the civilized man, war is simply the last repellent resort when all civilized means have failed. He will accept it therefore as he would accept any other unwelcome but necessary task ; hut he will refuse to shroud its realities in a mist of false pageantry ; and he will refuse to surrender his personality to the depersonalizing influences which it may unleash. Civilized society will not admit the notion that war is a biological necessity. To be civilized means precisely to have achieved control of the instincts. The aggressive instincts which may indeed find an outlet in war, need not do so ; and it is part of the evolution of the human personality to ensure that they shall not. War is only permissible, we remind ourselves, as an instrument rationally employed for the enforcing of law ; that result cannot be achieved by a war which is simply a sub-human surrender to uncontrolled biological urges. The days have gone by when war might be extolled as the sport of kings.

Download the free PDF e-book here (83 pages/4.4MB):

 Morality And War

Time and The Child

Time and The Child with the subtitle A Study of Morality and Reality is a peculiar work by E. Graham Howe, published in 1934 after being delivered as five lectures at the Home and School Council of Great Britain. I have a weakness for the independent thinkers, the ones who associates freely and draws on any experiences life have dealt them. E. Graham Howe is such a one. This book is about the children and how to train them for life, but it is so much more. It is about time, philosophy, the nature of reality and morality. Moreover, the book is illustrated with some interesting infographics to make the concepts more understandable. This is from the introduction to the book:

The unbiased study of reality is a hard matter and a difficult discipline, but it should not be beyond us. It would seem

to be the criterion of all teaching, if it is to be good, that it should set itself to understand and obey the law which is behind and within all the movement of life’s experience. Rightly understood, this is the whole purpose of the scientific method. However honest we may be in the way in which we carry out this method, the fact remains that in the end we must certainly fail to gain any completeness of understanding. But this itself is good for our discipline. By teaching us the lesson of humility, it may further serve to prove that in life we are engaged in the service of a mystery, rather than an act of mastery.

Download the free PDF e-book here (235 pages/9.99MB):

 Time and The Child

 

 

An Introduction to Ethics

An Introduction to Ethics by William Lillie was first published in 1948 and is now in the Public Domain. An Introduction to Ethics is thorough textbook on moral and ethical philosophy for both laymen and students, meaning it can be read by non-scholars. The main theme is the 20th Century moralists, their contribution to the discussions of moral and ethic philosophy. From the book:

Ethics is primarily a part of the quest for truth and the motive for studying it is the desire for knowledge. In this respect it is more akin to philosophical subjects than the natural sciences where the practical applications are many and attractive. We naturally want to know the truth about things, and ethics aims at finding out the truth about something that is both interesting and important-the rightness and wrongness of human conduct. There is no guarantee that the man who understands by means of ethical study the difference between right and wrong will necessarily follow the right. A theatre audience is always amused at the unlettered man in a modern comedy who tries to save his scholarly brother from  choosing evil  courses by reminding him that he won a university prize in moral philosophy ! In spite of the teaching of Socrates that knowledge is virtue it is commonly recognized that a mere knowledge of ethical principles is not sufficient to keep anyone in the paths of virtue. It has already been said that the example of good men’s lives and the training of practical experience are likely to be more effective influer.ces in producing good conduct.

Download the free PDF e-book here (386 pages/8MB):

 An Introduction to Ethics

The Third Morality

The Third Morality is a work by Gerald Heard, first published in 1937, now in the Public Domain.  Heard was a modern philosopher and author of more than 20 books. He was a close friend of Aldous Huxley and a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Heard, among other spectacular activities, formed an informal research group to look into developing group-mindedness or group communications. The members of this group later became some early developers of the computer industry in California. One of Gerald Heard main interests was morality and The Third Morality is his take on modern morality. From the book:

This book is called the third Morality because in man’s history he has had three main moralities, three general ideas of conduct based on the three world-pictures he has so far made. The first world-picture, and its resultant morality, was Anthropomorphism, the belief that the universe was the expression of individual persons, and then of one such supreme person. The second world-picture was Mechanomorphism, the belief that the universe could be explained as a huge machine. Men have tried to act on that-for as you believe things to be, so you must try to behave but it has never worked. You cannot make a true morality from the belief that the universe is nothing but a machine.

Nevertheless, until this generation, Mechanomorphism has been the accepted world-picture, even among the religious, and the majority of men today are trying still to act in accordance with that picture, because they are sure that it is true. This attempt so to act-however inconsistent and however unethical must then be classified as the Second Morality. It is a Morality which has never really succeeded in functioning, but it must be recognized as a phase. The Third Morality is the gradually defining impress which is to-day beginning to be made by the third world-picture, that world-picture which is now taking the place of Mechanomorphism. The following essay attempts to trace in outline the conduct indicated to us by this third world-picture, that conduct which must finally take form as the Third Morality.

Download the free PDF e-book here:

 The Third Morality

Listen to Gerald Heard here:

Explorations with Gerald Heard

 

Free book: The New Morality

The New Morality is written by Durant Drake and published back in 1929. For long I have thought about posting Public Domain books here on the ethic and moral topics. I have collected a small library of books of high quality, and here is the first one on the series.

Durant Drake was concerned about the problem of happiness and morality. He understood “the new morality” as the consciously aim to secure the maximum of attainable happiness for mankind, much as other philosophers defines utilitarianism. In this book he outlines “the new morality” has been a concept in the entire history of ideas, but only espoused by a few since the great thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Morever, Drake draws lines to our genetics and the animal kingdom to find the roots for our moral behavior. From the book:

Why should we be moral? What is the good of morality? No questions that could be asked touch us more closely. And while few have been given more confused and confliaing replies, few are really capable of simpler and more certain answer. The first point to note is the discovery by genetic psychology that human morality has its roots far back in the lives of our pre-human ancestors. It is the product, as are our instincts and bodily organs, of millions of years of natural selection. And since this stern process results, in general, in the survival of the fittest structures, and types of behaviour, we may be pretty sure, a priori, that morality, like our various bodily organs, has survived, persisted, developed because of its usefulness.

Download the free PDF e-book here (375 pages/15.2MB):

 The New Morality

 

Morality in Buddhism

The Buddhist believe in Karma as a guiding principle. Morality in Buddhism is derived from the Karma-law that describes that your every action has an invisible karmic attachment that will affect you in the future.

Morality in Buddhism: According to the Buddhist moral worldview, your actions will stick to you like glue, and it will do so for all your incarnations. This is the reason some are born in unfortunate situations. Dalai Lama was once asked why he meditated.

He replied with a laughter: ” To avoid being reborn as a pig.”

For the Buddhist morality is the way to handle karma in daily life. Different sects have their different guidelines, but in general morality in Buddhism is connected to the idea that all life is connected, and that the faith of life is same no matter if you are a butterfly, a tree or a monk.
This faith is connected to the concept of non-duality (advaita) which states that the feeling we all have that we are separate, individual beings is at a more divine level just an illusion. We actually all are the same, we are one.

Once this concept is accepted it is easy to understand the behaviour of devoted Buddhist’s. They are acting nice to you, not to please a God or because they fear the laws, but because they see themselves as being inseparable from what you are in your essence. Hurting someone, stealing, lying etc. is essentially harming yourself.

The Noble Eightfold Path

However, having experienced this full insight in your own life is not for everybody. It takes practice, devotion, and meditation. For the layman Buddhist, there is a set of eight rules to follow. The rules are called the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Conduct
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Samadhi or meditation

Practicing this will lead to the end of all suffering and the end the cycle of rebirths, which is equal to attaining Nirvana. The virtues 3, 4 and 5 are sometimes called the Moral Virtues since they describe how to behave in everyday life.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the basis of a number of other concepts typically associated with Buddhism. For instance, non-violence (ahimsa) and vegetarianism.

“Excellence and quality is not an act it is a habit!”

“Excellence and quality is not an act it is a habit” – To achieve excellence it is important to nurture your habits.

Do you want to make a change or maybe excellence in a certain fiels? – Then You need to start with habits that you need to incorporate into your life.

Throughout the ages of mankind, there have been many deep thinkers. Some have been known more than others and have become household names. Socrates was one of the Giants in this category. He left behind many ideas and teachings that are still at work today, helping shape our Western society as well.

“Excellence and quality is not an act it is a habit!”

Socrates 

The philosopher under fire

It’s always easy to go back and look at the thoughts and ideas of past generations with disagreement. For many reasons but mainly because as time changes so do we, so do our ideas. This can become a paradox of sorts as we now see with this famous quote he left us. Even though it is now widely thought of as untrue it still remains a part of large religions, philosophies, and teachings.

Strange right?

With the broad philosophical strokes painted by our genius’s of thought, it can be easy to misunderstand their original meaning.

Meaning is what it really comes down to if validity is questioned. The controversial quote has definitely reached this point, so now we ask: What did he mean?

What is a life worth living?

What does anyone of us really know? Honestly? Do we know that the sun will rise tomorrow? Or that the oceans will stay put?

The word “know” is difficult to wrestle with sometimes and tends to be thrown around…

A LOT!

The past is easier to deal with though, for instance: I know that I woke up yesterday. So to find out the context of Socrates’s “unexamined life” quote we need to know him and his ideals as closely as possible.

Unfortunately, he left zero written teachings behind, so we turn to his students: Plato and Aristotle.

After looking at what they left behind we quickly see that these two students adopted very similar thoughts on life. They both believed in virtue, truth, knowledge and ethical behavior. They also placed immense importance on one of their teachers’ most famous answers: “know thyself!”

Know thyself

Is this so different from the quote that clearly tells us to examine our lives? No.

Then why is one accepted and the other under fire? It is very simple and comes down to the last part of his quote.

When he says “life is not worth living”. People thought this was an arrogant statement given that we are so diverse.

I have always wondered at the quote “knowledge is power”. Why not “the application of knowledge is power”.

Knowledge is useless unless you use it, so what is knowledge without application? Well, I think Socrates would disagree with me for a very important reason.

Knowledge is a powerful thing in itself only because as conscious beings knowledge becomes part of who we are. It becomes ingrained in us on a level hard to comprehend.

When I say knowledge I mean true knowledge, not the fact that we read a book and believe some of what it says.

True knowledge is special, and I think Socrates wanted us to understand that.

When we gain knowledge it becomes a new part of us, we become something more. If this is the case, what would you want to understand most of all?

Ourselves? That seems to be a good place to start.

A point of reference

Imagine this: You are born just as you were before but on a different Earth. The two Piles of the earth are the exact same except for one thing.

The new one has no light at all. No sun, fire, light bulbs, or any way to see anything. If this happened to ask yourself, what would you call the darkness?

Nothing, everything, it would just be. Simply because there is no point of reference to distinguish its existence.

There is no opposite and there is nowhere to start.

Final words on excellence in life

Unless we examine who we are, examine our lives, we lose our point of reference.

We will go through life blind, deaf, and hardly with any real understanding of this controlled chaos we call life.

I think that our late Greek Philosopher wanted us to enjoy our lives. And maybe, just maybe, when we get to the point in which we know ourselves something amazing will be born. Maybe we will agree with Socrates.

Maybe we will wish we had all done it sooner.

Moral virtue is the first step to living a life of true excellence. Your ethics and morals must be excellent so you can build your life over the best possible foundation. Do not believe anyone who says that morals are not something important in your life.

Happiness is an important part of your life, and that is something that you need to achieve. Do not forget to mix experience and theory with your habits.

If you want to become the best golf player, you have to study the best books about it and practice like crazy.

We have talked about what excellence entails so you can truly know a thing or two about it. Aristotle said that you have to incorporate this habit into your daily life so you can see what you can do. This habit can truly become something great for you.

We cannot stress enough the fact that excellence is a habit and you should do it yourself because no one else will do it for you.