You Are The Sum of Your Experiences

What are you?

From the day you were born you have experienced your environment through your senses, as a child you associated your parents with love and caring, you were dependent on them and they nurtured you as you grew through childhood to adolescence.

Such is the way for pretty much all creatures but there comes a time when you have to leave the nest, you need to become independent, its nature’s way. When you are independent you control your environment, you make decisions and these decisions take you into new environments and build new experiences and memories. You continue to exist as long as you can add new experiences.

Da Vinci - Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci – Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci with his Vitruvian Man drawing was trying to explain the divine proportions of the human body and map these proportions onto man-made objects such as buildings such that we inherently have an affinity towards them, and this works. It is used in architecture, painting and photography furniture and even computers. The drawing has come to symbolise the essence of mankind.

However there is something far more fundamental to our existence which would still be there even if we were all physically very different and that fundamental essence is ‘self’.

As we grow and become independent we develop a sense of ‘self’, who we are, what we look like, how we like to appear to others, how we dress, how we react to new people and situations, how we turn acquaintances into friends and how we make decisions.

Our sense of ‘self’ although tangible is quite abstract, after all we are flesh and bone as Da Vinci observed and we have a nervous system and human intelligence controlled by the brain but actually where is the centre or the essence of us and as we get older does that change? Where does the essence of you go when you ultimately grow old and die? Of course we live on in people’s memories but we are essentially gone because fundamentally we can no longer make decisions that add to our experience.

New Scientist magazine for the week of 23 February 2013 ran a special issue on the self which gives some great insights answering questions such as: Who are you? What are you? When are you? Where are you? and Why are you?  Take a look here, http://www.newscientist.com/special/self

Experience – 1st Person View

From the day we are born a huge proportion of the way that we experience our environment comes from sight and sound, the balance is made up of taste and the physical senses of movement, touch and temperature.

In recent years it has become common place for people to capture high thrill experiences using 1st person view camcorders, the wearable head-cam is now ubiquitous and is able to shoot full HD and make the viewer of the footage understand to some extent what it was like to actually be there. Of course this now comes with great quality audio too however if we watch one of these videos all we get is a sense of what it was like but it does not give us anything like the experience.

Last year one of the most publicised events was Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos leap from 24 miles above the Earth where his fall broke the sound barrier. Now Red Bull ensured that Felix had a chest cam and a helmet cam, watch this short clip giving you a 1st person view of probably the most hair raising thing a human being can do.

Did you feel you experienced anything or where you simply detached? The chances are you didn’t feel anything, so much so you may not even have watched the clip to the end.

Now think about those video games that put you in the role as a character where you control direction, you can see a 1st person view, you can see your characters arms and sometimes feet as you look around. If it’s a well written game they can be very immersive, and when your character is in danger you may feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, you may even feel the effects of adrenaline. This is why such games become quite addictive, they transfer an element of your self to another character and our brains are quite adept at it.

Why is all this important?

Everything you do in your life, your personal life, your work or business life is controlled by you, what people perceive is you is what you are prepared to show them, it’s a persona that you are comfortable with. Most people have inner thoughts and fears that they will never let show, they may not tell anyone, they may never even say these things out loud.

We are each in this world for a purpose, to live our lives as best we can and I believe, to make a difference. It is a fundamental human trait that we want to have a positive impact on the world or at least those in our world otherwise our sense of self is diminished. This is why we seek friends, this is why gaining followers on Twitter seems important, this is why we want children of our own, a better house or car. This is why we all want to do a great job at work and be recognised in some way for doing it. We don’t want to live empty lives, be taken for granted or used, what we absolutely don’t want is simply an existence.

The point is you can’t do any of these things unless you have a self, call this self image, self esteem and you are not alone. Everyone in your circle of contacts is the same. The worst thing you can ever do is attack another person’s self image since this impacts their self esteem and therefore their ability to live their life. Think about this and then make sure you never do it to anyone else.

10 Ways to Win Friends and Influence People

Stealing the title of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book here are 10 things for you to think about.

  1. Always be aware of the impact you have on others.
  2. Try never to be detached in company, there are plenty of opportunities in life to be alone.
  3. Always listen sincerely with your ears and eyes, this shows you value the person talking whether you agree with what they say or not.
  4. When you make your point always acknowledge or play back part of what the other person said, it shows you listened and opens them up to listen to you.
  5. Experience is valuable, without it we are nothing, listen to those who have had it and learn. Seek out new experiences to enrich your life.
  6. Take time to think and reflect, this is when you will formulate valuable ideas building on your experience and that of others.
  7. There is no one right answer but there are plenty of wrong ones, learn to quickly filter down to potential options.
  8. Be a nice person, never use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, don’t try and force your views or steamroller others, its not a good long term plan.
  9. Be clear, be concise and be fun, use humour where appropriate and use analogies and their associated imagery if it fits, there is nothing worse than a ‘serial analogiser’ that doesn’t quite hit the mark.
  10. Remember that all you are is the sum of your experiences and that everyone is the same, so sharing and trading experience will enrich your life and those around you.
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