Excerpt from my book, Reach for the Stars:
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."-Michelangelo
All people share a basic sense of insecurity. We second guess our thoughts, our actions and our ideals. We are a species that lives in a constant state of awe and wonderment of the universe that we behold. Psychologists say that one of the most powerful emotional needs of human beings is the desire to be accepted by others. This explains a lot of the crazy behaviors that we see in others. It explains both introverts, who hide from the spotlight because of their fear of being rejected, as it explains the extroverts to act out publicly in order to gain the attention, if not the approval of their peers.
The secret to navigating through this quagmire of emotion is simple.
Ya gotta know when to play it Cool, and when to play the Fool.
When you are dealing with the ego, or the Id, as Freud defined it, play it cool. This applies to issues of your own ego, or that of others. Just be cool, baby. Don’t make a big deal of small issues. Don’t stress out and make things worse. Don’t blow your stack. Just be cool.
When dealing with the divine, well, that’s when you gotta play the fool. The wisdom of the fool is summed up in the famous quote: “All I know is that I know nothing at all.” This attitude opens your mind to all possibilities. It relieves you of the responsibility of controlling everything in your world. It summarizes the intent that there is a higher power of divinity that you surrender to.
We all know what it is like to listen to someone boast knowledge abut a subject that it is obvious they know nothing about. They are talking out of their backside. They are making the mistake of trying to play it cool when wisdom would direct them to play the fool. Their ego is getting in the way of their ability to be open and honest, and willing to accept new ideas. They are so afraid of what others think that they go to great lengths to put on a big act. They feel that if they can force others to believe that they know more than everyone else, or if they can get others to agree with their opinions that they will win the battle over their own insecurities. They focus all of their energy on this false bravado or hoax, when it would be so much easier, and so much more honorable to simply let go and be the fool.
Let go of all that unneeded stress by realizing that you do not need to cultivate the desire to be accepted by others. You only need to be accepting of yourself. When you let go of this anxiety, people will see it in you. They will be attracted to it, and everything you ever desired will come to pass.
Accept that no matter what you do, some people will like you and some people wont. And that’s O.K. Don’t try to please everyone. Don’t try to be everyone’s best friend. Just be yourself, and let the rest take care of it self.
Another famous quote, by Churchill, I think, was “a man without enemies is not worth knowing.”
Why is that? Let’s look at it a bit closer. A man without enemies must be someone who tries very hard to please everyone. This means that he must be engaging in a lot of falsehood. It means that he is a person who never takes a stand on any issue, because every issue has at least two sides, and therefore, when you express an opinion, you are bound to have others disagree. It means that he is a man without opinion, or one who hides his opinions, which either way means that he is really of no intellectual use to you. He will either lie to you, tell you what you want to her, or refuse to say anything at all. None of which is helpful.
So we see from this example that in order to be productive members of society, we must be willing to use our intellect, to develop opinions, and to express them openly. This means that we will have enemies, and we must accept that, and know that the more formidable that our enemies are, the more formidable our ideas are. And formidable ideas are worth suffering for.
Let us also remember the rule of the Cool and the Fool. The fool knows that opinions are just ideas from different points of view, and that these ideas are always subject to change. The fool knows that we must laugh at our own sense of seriousness, and that we must always be open to change.
The cool knows not to get overheated or to over react. Often the most powerful expression of opinion is wrapped in a quiet understated approach. The cool person will step outside of an issue, and watch from the sidelines while others hash it out. He will wait, and listen, and learn. He won’t get emotionally involved or wear his heart on his sleeve. He thinks before he acts, and he acts with a deliberate goal.
Be cool, and play the fool. It will take you far.