Finding Our True Self: The Only Way to Real Happiness and Success

“We human beings choose to see things as we wish. Few people seem to believe this, though. We decide to be jealous, or angry, or depressed, or happy, or bored, and these choices are often based on our biased interpretations of the thoughts of others. It is amazing how much psychological control many people relinquish to others. If we think that someone else disapproves of us, we are worried. If we think that someone else is pleased with us, we are happy. If we think that someone else holds views contrary to our own, we are insulted. If we think that someone else is contemptuous of us, we are angry. With all these others determining how we feel, it is sometimes difficult to find the actual self.” – Stephen K Hayes

When I was a young teen, spent a lot of time in Chinatown in Philadelphia, mostly because I was an Asian culture and martial arts junky.  There was a store there; Asian World of Martial Arts and I loved just being in that place.  They had swords, throwing stars, nunchaku, books (lots of books), training gear, uniforms, and, well … you name it. 

One day, I saw this book that I couldn’t stop going back to, so I borrowed a few bucks from my friend and bought it.  First book I ever bought with my own (eh, borrowed) money.  “Ninjutsu: The Art of the Invisible Warrior”, by Stephen K Hayes.  At that time, I’d never heard of this guy.    

The guy who wrote that quote, above. 

Hayes is a judan; a 10th degree black belt master of ninjutsu.  Yeah … a real ninja, trained by Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th grandmaster of Togakure-ryu ninjutsu.  Hayes was in the 1980 TV series Shogun, he was featured on Discovery Channel, he’s a Black Belt Magazine hall of famer, and a security escort for the Dalai Lama.  And … most have never heard of him.  Must be those ninja skills keeping him invisible. 

Earlier this year, I connected with him and told him that his book was the first nonfiction book I ever read and I thanked him for that and he was gracious.  Sounds cool, but it was just a moment in time and he has no idea who I am.  But, I would sit on my front steps in Philly and read that book over and over.  Such a nerd.    

I’m digressing, I know.  So, back to the quote …

I’ve been guest-teaching/presenting at two local high schools now for six years and I was a Junior Achievement instructor for two.  High school is a tough time for us humans with everything coming at us.  The pressure to do well, puberty, social clicks, boys, girls, the prom, our parents, “what college are you going to?”, sports, clubs, homework, “should I ask her out?”,  “should I go out with him?” part-time jobs, clothes, hair, popularity, and so on.  It can really fuck you up.

And as Hayes said, “It is sometimes difficult to find the actual self.”

This is what I talk about with students.  Happiness and success must be only yours.  It can’t be what your parents want, what you think society wants of you, or what your friends expect of you.  Only you are you.  The best path to any kind of success (not necessarily financial) is happiness and the best way to be happy is to respect your true self and be it unapologetically.

We’ll never please everybody or be liked by everyone, nor should we try.  That is a path to failure and we’ll never be happy or successful that way.   

This is not a license to be an asshole, but the world doesn’t want some version of you or you as a version of someone else that you think you need to be to be liked, to please others, or to keep the peace.  The world already has that.  What the world wants and needs is you.  You’ll develop a genuine audience, an inner circle, and an extended family.  Those will be your people. 

Real, authentic people who love your actual self.

Namaste, ninjas.

Photo: Stephen K Hayes

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