"What if I had a clone? What if my clone wasn't complete and he needed some kind of information that would help him better understand who it means to be me?"
It was an odd thought, but I went with it anyway. I was sitting in an office, peering into the darkness that enveloped the city of Boston. The shapes of buildings were outlined with tiny lights and red, green, and white colors flowed on the streets below.
"What would I tell a clone to help him better understand me?" I began jotting down specific points that came to mind and stopped when I reached thirty-three.
"Was this me? Did this list convey the essence of what it's like to live in my head?"
Over the course of the next few days, I went back to that list and spent time pondering each point. I jotted down stories, described examples, and otherwise tried to define what each thing meant to me.
Now I'm sharing that list here with you in the hopes that you will glean something useful from it.
1. Know Thyself
I'm always questioning who I am and what it means to be me (this post is evidence of that). But I'm not searching for a definition. I don't expect to find an answer or reach a moment in time when I've defined everything it means to be me. I am the essence of that which cannot be defined.
But in asking myself who I am, I remain humble to the fact that I don't know everything. I remain open-minded and always ready to learn new things. When I'm wrong, I learn to accept it. When I've made mistakes, I learn to recognize them.
The very act of asking myself who I am forces me to remain objective. To ask myself who I am, I need to stand in a place where only the true me exists.
2. Reflect From Another Perspective
When you look in the mirror, who do you see? I see this guy named Raam. He isn't really me, he's just a representation of what my physical body looks like. He's a representation of how most of the world views the man named Raam Dev.
But what do people see when they look at me? When I smile, what do I look like? When I talk, what do I sound like? When I interact with people, what does my body language say? As I make choices throughout my life, how do others perceive those choices?
When I catch my reflection, I think about these things. I don't feel a strong association with the person in the reflection, but instead I see it as an opportunity to learn something about myself that I couldn't otherwise learn.
When opinions and judgments are passed on to me, I take the reflective position and allow those opinions and judgments to become building blocks for further growth. I allow them to give me a more complete picture of who I am to the external world. This lets me grow in ways that otherwise would have been impossible.
3. Cultivate Curiosity
How is a skyscraper built? How does a gun work? What exactly is color and how do we interpret it? How does propulsion work in space? How is sound saved to a CD and then converted back through speakers?
What is a headache? How does the world financial system work? Who or what determines the current value of money? What influences the weather? How much water is contained in a cloud? Why do babies cry? How are images stored in the brain?
Are ghosts real? Where do we go when we die? How do cavities form? How does text from one computer screen travel thousands of miles to another computer screen almost instantaneously?
The world is an incredible place with so much complexity. By remaining curious and always being interested in how and why things work, we gain a greater understanding of not just the world around us, but of ourselves.
Children are curious because they know that they're missing a lot of stuff. They are surrounded by adults and older children who have more answers than they do and they're not satisfied until they have those answers too.
As adults, we give up asking why and stop being curious because we assume there's just too much to know. Everybody around us has given up, so we give up too. It shouldn't be that way.
This is your world. If an alien came from another planet, teleported into your home, and then started asking you questions about how various things worked, how much would you be able to explain?
When you look at something, try dissecting it down to the molecular level. Do you understand all the parts? Can you describe roughly how a light bulb works? What about your car, the water heater in your basement, or your refrigerator?
4. Strive for Perfection
When I'm driving, I drive. When I'm walking, I walk. When I'm speaking with someone, I speak. When I'm being spoken to, I listen.
In each task, I strive for perfection. I aim to be the most skilled driver, the most conscious walker, the most thoughtful speaker, the most attentive listener.
When we strive for perfection, we give the task at hand our very best. We don't cut corners or do things half-assed. It's true that perfection doesn't exist, but don't use that as an excuse to be sloppy or careless.
You are an incredibly powerful and intelligent being, a member of an elite species. You should conduct yourself with a high level of professionalism and good character.
5. Be Present
Have you ever talked to someone when they were busy doing something and they responded with "uh huh..." to simply acknowledge that they heard the sounds coming from your mouth? They hear you, but they're not listening. They're here, but they're not present.
When that happens to me, I feel like the other person is disrespecting my time. I feel like they're treating my words as a cheap accessory that doesn't need to be cared for or considered.
In that situation, I've learned to stop talking and leave my sentences half finished. It catches them off guard because then they're forced to be present to figure out why the sentence wasn't finished.
To ensure I don't pass on the same disrespect to others when they're talking to me, I've formed the habit of politely asking them to hold their thought until I'm finished with the task at hand. When I'm finished, I give them my attention and hear them out.
If I'm feeling daydreamy while listening to someone, I force myself to focus on their voice and remind myself there's a time and place for daydreaming.
If you're with a group of people having a conversation, be present. The time for daydreaming is when you're alone, not when you're supposed to be listening to the person beside you.
Not being present in the company of others is disrespecting their humanity. Pay attention or leave.
"The human body has two ears but only one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak."
That's something my dad would always say when I was younger. It stuck with me and I learned to become a good listener. (Some might say that I took it a bit too far and that now I don't talk enough, but I digress.)
Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is passive and doesn't require any effort. Listening requires effort. Listening leads to inner growth and greater understanding.
Real listening can be challenging because it requires that we temporarily block out our own inner voice. It forces us to make a conscious effort to understand and process what the other person is saying, even if we disagree with it.
When we listen, we have to give up our own selfish desire to be heard and face that inner beast that thinks it's always right. When I feel that urge to interrupt, it feels like a bubble of energy building up in my chest or behind my throat, just itching to explode into a spew of words.
Taming that urge to interrupt is one of the toughest things to do, but forcing ourselves to listen and take the opposing view into consideration causes us to grow from within. It forces us to remain humble and open-minded.
7. Live By Your Values
What do you believe in? What do you consider right and wrong? What is important to you? Those are your values and principals. They make up the tiny rule book that helps govern your life.
That rule book shouldn't be cast in stone and never looked at again, but it also shouldn't be made up of words in the clouds. Never assume the validity of anything, even your values. Always test your assumptions. Reevaluate. Does the core of your being say those beliefs still hold true?
Define your values. Write them down somewhere and then ask yourself if your current lifestyle and associations reflect those values. When it comes time to make a decision, no matter how big or small, ask yourself if that decision is in agreement with your values.
8. Become Your Best Friend
When I'm traveling alone, I never really feel alone. I always feel like there is someone else with me. It might sound a bit odd, but think about this for a moment.
When you talk to yourself, who's doing the talking and who's doing the listening? It's you, but a separate part of you. There really is another person that exists within, an entity separate from what everybody else sees.
Learn to develop a relationship with your inner self. Grow that relationship and really become your own best friend. Learn to love and support one another. Talk to yourself. Hold conversations. Laugh together. Cry together. Lean on one another.
Friendship involves trust. Do you trust yourself? Can you depend on yourself when you're in need? How well do you know your inner self? Can you predict how you will feel, react, and respond to things before they even happen?
9. Treasure Solitude
I thoroughly enjoy spending long amounts of time alone and I will often go out of my way to create opportunities where I can be alone for days at a time. It's not that I dislike people. I just find solitude incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating.
Solitude allows us to focus on ourselves. It gives us a chance to look inward and develop the relationship with who it means to be us. Just as spending time with a loved one is important to keep the relationship healthy, spending time with ourselves is vital to inner growth.
Everyone is different. Some people recharge by socializing and surrounding themselves with people. Others, like myself, are quickly drained by social interaction.
Figure out what works best for you but remember that solitude is an opportunity to interact with yourself, to connect with your soul. If you're afraid of solitude, you probably haven't developed a good relationship with yourself.
10. Know That Anger Is a Dead End
When I feel myself getting angry, I quickly ask myself where the anger will lead me and I always conclude that anger is a dead end and that it's not going to solve anything.
Let anger become an indication that you need to slow down and take a step back. Instead of diving in with the anger, release the frustration and tension. Clear your head and view the situation objectively.
Hours, weeks, months, and even years of life can be wasted simply because anger got in the way. Anger doesn't solve problems. Learn to really be grateful for every moment and anger will have no place to thrive.
11. Water Your Potential
Your potential is like a freshly tilled field on which millions of random seeds have been thrown. There could be flowers and oak trees, vegetables and fruits, grasses and vines. But none of that potential will ever sprout if it's not watered.
Water your potential with confidence, curiosity, and exploration. Never stop giving yourself new ways to grow. Find new situations to put yourself in that virtually guarantee you'll uncover a new seeds of potential that were just waiting to sprout.
If you're not pushing yourself and discovering new limits, your potential will forever remain locked away and you'll live your life never knowing what was possible.
12. Learn To Be Independent
Independence means being able to take care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It means being able to think for yourself. It means trusting your decisions and recognizing your strengths. Being independent means becoming your own leader.
There is nothing wrong with depending on other people, but you should never use the availability of others as an excuse for neglecting yourself. If everybody on the planet disappeared tomorrow, would you be able to survive? If all your friends left you tomorrow, would you be able to move on?
More than anything independence requires a strong sense of self-confidence, a belief that you can depend on yourself and handle any situation no matter how difficult or challenging. If you don't feel that way right now, what can you do to change that?
13. Aspire To Be a Jack-Of-All-Trades
When something needs to be fixed and I don't know how to fix it, I have a burning desire to learn. If my car breaks down, I don't just want it fixed, I want to learn how to fix it. If I get sick, I don't just want a cure, I want to understand why I'm sick and what I can do to prevent being sick in the future.
Short of becoming a cyborg, it's not possible to know everything. The next best thing, however, is to have the desire to learn and know everything. I never tell myself, "I could never do that." Instead, I decide what information, knowledge, or skill is missing and then determine how I could obtain it (the Internet makes this incredibly easy).
Humans have the gift of adaptability. We can learn and understand anything. All that is required is the desire to do so and the dedication, persistence, and open-mindedness to accept something new. Throwing away the gift of adaptability and learning, the very thing that makes us human, is such a waste.
Aspire to know. Aspire to understand. Aspire become the best, the most well-rounded human being you can. Be a sponge for knowledge, a learning machine, a generalist of life.
14. Never Stop Exercising Your Imagination
Dream the impossible. See impossibility as an undiscovered path instead of a dead end. What will the world really look like 500 years from now? What about 1,000 years from now? What might your city look like if cars really could fly?
What might another solar system look like where dozens of Earth-like planets existed, all with human life that was only slightly more advanced than we are now? Would the planets have their own area codes? Would email addresses contain the planet name instead of the domain name?
We all brainstorm from time to time, but we should do more dreamstorming. We should never stop asking "what if?" and exercising our ability to think outside the box.
Children play and create things using all the small pieces of the world that they discover. As adults, our play pieces -- the parts of the world that we know and understand -- are incredibly complex and filled with potential for creativity. Ask yourself: What if?
15. Reevaluate Your Life Every Day
Are you on the right track? Do you feel like your life is heading in the right direction? When you wake up, how excited are you to start the day?
If too many days go by where you're not enthusiastic to begin the day, you should really take a closer look at where your headed and figure out if that's really where you want to be going.
For so many years I worked day and night, sometimes as many as eighty hours a week, doing various things that I always knew weren't where I actually wanted to be. I won't say the time was wasted, but it was definitely time that I could've been spending working towards my real passions and towards my real life goals.
The sooner you put yourself on the path that will get you to your desired destination, the sooner you'll get there. Do a daily sanity check to make sure you're not walking in the opposite direction.
16. Remind Yourself That You Will Die
Every day the thought crosses my mind that my life, my physical body and everything that makes up the person "Raam", will one day cease to exist. My body will one day be nothing more than a pile of ashes.
I don't spend too much time dwelling this fact, but I think about it long enough to feel humbled by it. It helps remind me that no matter what problems or difficulties I may face today, including a life and death situation, I will face it to the best of my ability.
It also makes me feel grateful for each moment and reminds me that time is running out. It forces me to put thoughtful consideration into whatever I'm doing throughout the day: Is this really how I want to spend one of my last days alive?
17. Remind Yourself That Everybody Will Die
Like yourself, every single person you have ever known will one day die. It could happen next year. It could happen tomorrow.
When I'm feeling self-centered or selfish around someone, I simply remind myself that they could die tomorrow. I remind myself that this really could be the last moment in my life that I see that person alive.
Feelings of jealousy, contempt, or hatred do absolutely nothing good. Cherish time spent with others. Be grateful for their presence. When you're with someone, be present and respect their time.
18. Think Long-Term
Five hundred years. One thousand years. From the perspective of eternity, your life is just a blip in time. What should you do? What role in the evolution of the universe will your life play?
Being shortsighted is the quickest way to forget what matters. You will die. Your time here is limited. That's a fact. What are the long-term implications of your actions today? How will what you're doing today shape the future?
You cannot know the future, but that doesn't mean you should pretend it doesn't exist. What is your vision for the future? Are your choices and actions nudging the universe in that direction or further away from it?
19. Embrace That You Will Never Know Everything
There are places on this planet where you will never lay eyes or set foot. There are skills that you will never develop, languages you never learn, and people you never meet.
On the flip side, there are people on this planet who will never lay eyes on you or set foot on the place you grew up. There are people who will never meet you, never learn your language, and never develop the skills you possess.
Accepting these facts frees yourself from the feeling that you're missing something. It lets you make the best of what you have now while leaving the door wide open for discovering and learning new things.
20. Think Yourself Young
From an early age, I would come up with all kinds of inventions for problems that I perceived in the world. I remember being nine years old and observing people hanging precariously from skyscrapers cleaning the windows.
So I invented a robot that lived on the roof and occasionally descended down to do the cleaning. I would draw out on paper all the parts I could think of: Where the robot would live, how it would function, where its cleaning material would be stored, how it would slide down the windows without scratching them, etc.
Earlier this year, while traveling on a train in India, I was watching the crowded villages fly by and began thinking about how overcrowded the planet will eventually become. There will come a point where will eventually run out of land.
So I invented a solution for people to live on the ocean in giant floating egg-shaped cities that anchored to the seabed. I drew escape hatches, designed sustainable power systems that used the ocean currents, and jotted down notes for how waste could be recycled.
I know next to nothing about building robots, designing cities, or inventing waste recycling systems. But I never let that stop me. Those exercises help me think through real-world problems and exercise my imagination. They keep my playful inventive spirit alive.
Develop and maintain an insatiable desire to learn, understand, and explore. Become relentlessly open-minded. Remain playful and curious. Foster an ever-expanding imagination. Maintain a strong desire to create and invent.
Life is spiritual. Age is physical. Youth is a mindset that can be maintained throughout life. Instead of thinking yourself old, think yourself young!
21. Take Responsibility For Your Body
In my late teens, I recognized that I wasn't as healthy as I could be (I had asthma and I was seventy pounds overweight). With a little research I learned that the longer I waited the more difficult getting in shape would be.
Recognizing that every day I neglected my health was one less day I might live, I spent the next few years exercising, experimenting, and educating myself on everything related to fitness. I learned how my body responded to certain foods and how quickly it metabolized fat. I discovered a sensitivity to dairy that was triggering my asthma and giving me skin rashes.
I learned what it meant to over-train and to push myself too far. I discovered plateaus and broke through them. I lost those seventy pounds of weight and discovered a new sense of self-confidence and a new freedom for exploring the world. I committed myself to the journey of taking my body to new levels for the rest of my life.
Your body is your temple. It's your permanent home for the duration of this life. You are the only person responsible for taking care of it. Feed it clean healthy foods. Exercise it. Maintain it. Stretch it. Test its limitations. Learn how it works. Respect it. Reconnect with it. Treasure it.
22. Be Ready To Sacrifice
Living life without sacrifice is like trying to become a great runner without breathing. To really live fully, you need to be ready to sacrifice those things in your life that are not of absolute importance.
Decide what truly matters to you and then figure out what you will need to sacrifice to focus on those things. If you're not ready to sacrifice anything, you're not being realistic about what matters.
23. Become An Optimistic Realist
Optimism lets us believe in possibility and hope. It gives us confidence that things will turn out positive even when there aren't any hard facts to support it.
Will Earth reach a point where extreme poverty doesn't exist? Yes. Will it happen within our lifetime? No. The first answer is optimism. The second answer is realism. Focusing solely on either one will lead us nowhere, but finding a place somewhere in the middle holds great potential.
Optimism is an incredibly useful tool for pushing us beyond perceived limitations. But unrealistic optimism -- optimism that doesn't take into account the hard facts -- sets us up for failure. The key to becoming an optimistic realist is balance.
24. Think Abundance
It has taken me a long time to discover the abundance mindset (and I still have a long way to go). I clearly remember feeling the need for an expensive car, a lot of money, and lots of friends who admired me. I remember feeling the need to have my own career, my own success, and my own talents.
What I realize now is that I was living with a scarcity mentality. I felt that I needed things because they would somehow be gone forever or that somebody else would take them away if I didn't get them first.
Nothing in this world belongs to us, not even this body. We are here for a short period of time and during that time we're simply the caretakers. Everything we could possibly need already exists and it will continue to exist for as long as it's needed.
When we grab onto things out of fear of losing them, we lose sight of what's right in front of us. But when we focus on the abundance that always surrounds us, we immediately recognize the potential in everything.
25. Give Without Expectation
When someone emails me for advice or asks for my help, I don't go in with the expectation that I'm going to get something in return. If helping them will require more time than I can commit, then I state that upfront. I don't assume that they will give me something in return.
Love, kindness, compassion, and generosity should never be given with expectation. The act of expecting something in return for any of those things taints their authenticity. If you're going to taint them with expectation, you'd be better off not giving them at all.
When you give, give without expectation. Giving without expectation is the fertilizer for good karma.
26. Receive Without Expectation
If someone sends me a few ebooks that I know cost them money, I don't become suspicious and assume that they're sending them to me because they want something in return. I thank them for the gift and accept it as an expression of love and generosity.
When you receive with an expectation that strings are attached, you're throwing out all the good energy that comes with the gift. When you receive with love however, you accept a transfer of positive energy and enable yourself to pay that energy forward.
27. Trust Yourself
When I was making the decision to change my lifestyle earlier this year, I trusted myself to make the right decision. I knew that it meant losing my job, emptying my bank accounts, and basically starting from scratch.
But I trusted myself. I trusted that whatever the outcome, I would be triumphant. I trusted that whatever I decided to do in the future, I would not regret my decision.
Learn to trust that you will do the right thing. Know that you will learn from your mistakes and that you will see each choice in retrospect as the best choice you could've made with the information available to you.
28. Test Your Assumptions
Every time someone asks me something and I get ready to respond with "I assume so", I'm reminded of what my dad always told me about assumptions: "When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME". Needless to say, I very rarely use the word.
I don't think assumptions are entirely avoidable but I also don't think they are inherently bad. However, treating an assumption as fact is dangerous.
We make assumptions all the time. We assume the cars will stop for us when we're crossing the road. But we still test that assumption by watching to make sure they actually stop.
We often make assumptions about what is right and wrong based on how we were brought up. But that doesn't make those assumptions true. We need to verify for ourselves.
Never stop testing your assumptions. Never stop reevaluating. Doing this will not only keep you humble to the possibility that you might not know everything, but it will also allow for greater inner growth.
29. Never Stop Exploring
It is through exploration of the unknown that we learn and grow. When we stop exploring, we stop growing. The world we live in is defined by how we see it and if we learn to see the world from different perspectives, we discover an endless source of new worlds to explore. Our potential for growth expands without limit.
The universe is a big place and inside each of us exists a universe of equal size. Don't trap yourself in a tiny sphere and pretend that you've seen, heard, and experienced everything.
That tiny patch of ground underneath the tree in your backyard? Go lay down on the ground and explore that. There's an entire world right there. Don't believe me? Go see for yourself.
30. Assess Risk
Is drinking a cup of coffee over your laptop worth the risk of spilling it? Is switching lanes on the highway without using your directional worth the risk of killing someone? Is spending the next few years working in an office and saving money worth the risk of never traveling and seeing the world?
In everything you do, assess the risks involved and determine if they're worth it. When you make a decision, immediately adjust your actions and work towards creating new habits. Lean back from your laptop when you drink the coffee. Always use your directional when switching lanes. Quit your job, use your savings, and spend six months living abroad.
Risks are everywhere. It's up to you to decide which ones are worth taking.
31. Become The Dictator Of Your Life
You make the decisions, nobody else. You need to take into consideration your responsibilities and the opinions of others, but at the end of the day the decisions are yours. You call the shots.
There may be events or situations that are out of your control, but how you choose to respond those is up to you. Let your values, principals, and passions guide your decision-making.
It doesn't matter if it's the guy on the television, the newspaper editor, or the president of the United States. It doesn't matter if it's your coworker, your best friend, your relative, or your spouse.
If something goes against what you believe to be right or wrong -- if something violates your values -- stand up and hold your ground. If nobody agrees with you, that's fine. It's far more important that you're true to yourself than it is to please everybody else.
32. Dismiss Stress
Is your bank empty and the bills piling up? Stressing out about it won't solve the problem. Is a project at work not going as planned and stressing everybody out? Stress won't fix the problem.
When I feel myself getting stressed out about a situation, I take a deep breath and mentally step back. Have I done everything I can? If yes, then I let the stress evaporate. If no, then I do what needs to be done and let the stress evaporate.
Stress is an indicator that something is potentially wrong. It's a reminder that you need to take action or make a decision. Once you're aware of the situation and you decide to take action, stress has no place. It's job is done. Let it go.
33. Take Ownership of Your Path
You're already on your own path. You're already blazing your own trail. Your path is, has been, and always will be unique to you no matter how much effort you might put into following the path of someone else.
Instead of looking at the paths of others and feeling jealousy or a sense that you're missing something, take full ownership your own path. Embrace it. Nurture it. Feed it. Care for it.
It's your path. Own it.
When you take a snapshot of the essence of what it means to be you, what things stand out? What combination of ideas, self-defined rules, lessons, and ways of thinking reflect what it means to be YOU?
If you could convey one piece of advice or knowledge that reflects who you are, what would it be? Please share your wisdom in the comments below.