Mark Manson on HappinessMark Manson on Happiness by Mark Manson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get it here. If you don’t want to give out your e-mail address, wearing a peg leg, an eye patch and dying of vitamin C deficiency might work for you.

We’re very, very bad at judging what makes us happy.
No matter what happens, everything’s going to be okay.
Be creative. Be grateful.

Sounds clichay, but it’s advice I’d love to be able to keep in mind always. and to his credit, Mark Manson made it sound profound. It is, actually, and it takes skill to turn a well-meaning but worn saying into something usable. The guy writes well and he seems to have a knack for the self-development genre, as his best articles comfortably show.

How long was that little .pdf pf the book? 30 pages? Something like that. Read it. I hope it’s as good for you as it was for me. Even half that would be great. Won’t take you more than an hour.

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Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-DiscoveryPersonality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Experience has shown that … personalities … may be grouped into various major categories, and for purposes of studying them this is a helpful device. Classifications must never be taken too seriously—they ruin much thinking—but the fear to use them has prevented much more thinking.

—Karl A. Menninger, The Human Mind

The above quote would find a lot of people in the world in open disagreement. Even in the US, where different social needs and anxieties gave birth to almost all forms of typology developed today, there is still some skepticism about the extent to which typology works and is based on fact; in the culture I grew up in, namely millennial Greece, the very concept of the existence of a number of more or less concrete personality types, is rather foreign to say the least—ironically, too, because some of the most adamant proto-typologists were ancient Greeks philosophers such as Galen, who is the best-known.

My enduring fascination with the subject and my attempts of discussing it with my surroundings have been mostly welcomed with polite indifference and at worst with open contempt: surely the entire wide spectrum of humanity cannot fit in a handful of archetypes. “How is this any different from astrology?”, asks a One that has made her mind up about right and wrong; “no system can pigeonhole the infinite complexity that is me” is a common reaction from Threes or special-snowflake disintegrating Fours; “you do know that people’s behaviours change according to their surroundings, right?”, comes the valid though overly dismissive comment from a Five who likes to think he’s unusually smart and thorough.

It’s been very difficult to get people to look at this seriously and see the strengths of existing typology systems and how they can help us empathise with and understand eachother and ourselves. Half-arsed online tests and the seeming equation of typology with “which Disney/Game of Thrones/famous person are you?” hasn’t helped people take the field seriously either, but I’m not one to judge; after all, it is how I myself, and many others I’m sure, originally came across typology. The difference is that I took an interest in the theory of it all, the questions that result in the answers that are all the different types. Thus did my research in this realm begin years ago and ever since I’ve been slowly trying to follow Kierkegaard’s advice to become subjective toward others and objective toward myself.

Before reading Personality Types, the typology system I’d been most familiar with was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, developed in the ’70s and in later years built upon by David Keirsey and his theory of four temperaments.  MBTI was based on Jung’s eight cognitive functions and laid out the sixteen four-letter type system we know and love today. According to it, each type is a different ordering of these Jungian functions that correspond to each individuals preference of use. I, for instance, am an INFP because I primarily use Introverted Feeling and then Extraverted Intuition.

Understanding how the cognitive functions work for each type is essential for understanding the MBTI, a fact which regrettably but understandably is most often missed by online tests, because it makes the whole thing about ten times more difficult to decode.

To sum up, MBTI is used to categorise people according to their cognitive functions: the mechanics of the manner in which they perceive and process information, how they perceive the world (by observing or by abstracting?) and how they make decisions (thinking their way out or doing what feels right?).

Nevertheless, the MBTI isn’t even what this book is about; I just wanted to illustrate the difference between it and the Enneagram, which is a different school of typology, and what Personality Types is about. Riso and Hudson did an excellent job with it of presenting the Enneagram as a more organic form of typology than MBTI. Sometimes the latter feels as if it’s somehow constructed or artificial; the Enneagram, on the other hand, is very convincingly presented in this book as something that does exist out there, that it is what had been attempted to be captured by the first known typologists in ancient times up to Freud, and consequently it is something that absolutely has to be part of modern psychology and psychotherapy. They make a convincing case that the Enneagram’s the culmination of everything that’s been done before in the field, the most perfected and complete system that has been developed to this day. And after reading the book, I do stand convinced.

Here’s a small sample of what the types are about and our problems:

Twos spend their whole lives searching for love from others and still feel that they are unloved.
Threes endlessly pursue achievement and recognition but still feel worthless and empty.
Fours spend their entire lives trying to discover the meaning of their personal identity and still do not know who they are.
Fives endlessly accumulate knowledge and skills to build up their confidence but still feel helpless and incapable.
Sixes toil endlessly to create security for themselves and still feel anxious and fearful about the world.
Sevens look high and low for happiness [through new experiences] but still feel unhappy and frustrated.
Eights do everything in their power to protect themselves and their interests but still feel vulnerable and threatened.
Nines sacrifice a great deal to achieve inner peace and stability but still feel ungrounded and insecure.
And finally, Ones strive to maintain personal integrity but still feel divided and at war with themselves.

The way out of these self-defeating patterns is to see that they cannot bring us the happiness that we seek because our personality does not have the power to create happiness. As wisdom has always recognized, it is only by dying to ourselves—that is, to our ego and its strategies—that we find life.

Apart from this small sample, here are some of the reasons I think the Enneagram is an excellent tool and theoretical system:

• The Enneagram is based on triads, just as the MBTI is based on pairs. Each Enneagram type is the combination of thinking, feeling or instinct with a modality of overexpression, underexpression or repression, which in turn represents each type’s fundamental characteristic: all at once, its main weakness, the bane of its existence, what it strives to overcome, as well as what it’s ambitions are aimed at and what it thinks it lacks. That makes 3 times 3, three modalities for three fundamental aspects of humanity.
• The wing system adds more depth and intricacy.
• On top of that, the fact that if as a person you’re expressing your type well you’re “integrating” into another type and if you’re not you’re disintegrating into yet another makes it clear what each type can strive for or can expect to happen if it doesn’t remain healthy.
• The system is made even more complex by the fact that for each type there are essentially nine sub-types according to the level of development of the type. That also goes for the wings and directions of integration/disintegration.
• All the above combined make the Enneagram not only a great tool for self-discovery, empathy and understanding, but also quite revealing and useful for self-development as well.
• While reading the lengthy descriptions for each of the types, I had very clear images of real people I know or friends of mine who appear to be embodiments of their types. Imagine the symbol above but with the faces of people in my social network at each end. My personal Enneagram became these 9 friends of family of mine, and now I believe I can understand their possible fears, troubles and priorities much better, as well as see reflections of those characteristics on myself.

This stuff is real and I want to get deeper into it. I would heartily recommend you do as well, and there’s no better place to start than Reddit’s Enneagram Subreddit which has all the information and links to tests you might need. When you get the basics, reading an actual book, this one or another good one by Riso and Hudson or other personality psychologists and distinguished writers on the subject, will be the way to go. Good luck!

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another one of those books I enjoy in audiobook format but due to my natural absent-mindedness I miss a lot of the details while listening. A great part of the book became the soundtrack of my random thoughts and observations I had while walking, but what I can say is that I have had audiobooks inspire my undisturbed attention (such as The Power of Now), therefore this lack of ability to listen with concentration prolonged period of time is not merely a problem of the medium and how I interact with it. Maybe I should try listening to books purposefully, sitting in a sofa or something. Maybe even while doing chores.

For the record, these are the seven habits:

1.Be proactive,
2.Begin with the End in Mind,
3. Put First Things First,
4. Think Win-Win,
5. Seek First to Understand, then to be understood,
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the Saw

They are useful to remember and keep to heart. I’m sure that if I internalize this list and put it work, I’ll become a better person. Doing the work is the hard part though, isn’t it?

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Thought you knew the real origin of the name Cubilone? Well, you thought wrong, because in the following video I reveal all for the first time.

Jokes aside, I prepared this video as part of the online preparation for the upcoming training in Olde Vechte in the Netherlands, the same place I did I SEE GREEN in February-March 2013 and REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE in November of the same year, for which I never wrote anything of note as far as I can recall, so clicking on the words will do nothing particularly significant.

Supposedly, this video is for presenting myself to the rest of the international group and what fulfills me in life. That was the mission. Do you think I managed to do it? I set off with high expectations but the impressions I’ve got from other people (apart from you Daphne and Mario!) have left me wondering. I can certainly say I had high expectations from the idea, and still do (the things I can write about Cubilonia! I could fill books with interesting things about that place) but I’m disappointed in, you know… why should I do it?

Looking for inspiration; maybe find it, proceed to let other people influence outcome too much; idea that felt awesome looks ridiculous in the space of a single hour when faced with awkward reception and blank stares. Artists shouldn’t listen to what other people think. Right? Artists and creatives don’t create for anyone but themselves. Right? Self-expression is of top importance. Right?

December B&W Film

A month and a half or so ago I bought two T-Max 400 black & white photography films, one for myself and one for Daphne. The idea was to use them together and develop them together as well. We did exactly that three days before I left for Sofia. I had the dumb idea to use the ergaleiaki to record the process in the darkness of my bathroom in Nea Smyrni, which ended up very very very dimly illuminating the whole affair with its red little recording confirmation LED. We knew we had made a mistake but we didn’t turn back. Thankfully it didn’t ruin the rolls.

We used T-Max developer which had expired a year or so before. Tip: don’t trust expiration dates – neither for developer nor for food. Use common sense.

All in all I’m very satisfied with this roll and so decided to upload pretty much all of it. Enjoy. Thanks go to my trusty OM2-n (40 years and still going – can you say that about your DSLR?), my scanner and of course Rapsooneli.

Rapsooneli: I invite you to upload your own roll and then we can share our creations online like some sort of artist duo! :O EDIT: She did. She went ahead and did it. Isn’t she just awesome?

Picture order randomised. If you refresh the page it will change. Go on, try it.

Review: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher CreativityThe Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Artist’s Way is one of those books that change you – one of those that are made to change you, and you buy them because you yourself want to change. It’s a course in self-discovery, acceptance and creative birth.

These are the basics: for every morning of every week for the 12-week duration of the course -one chapter for each week-, the blocked artists choosing to follow the Way have to:

1)Do three pages of free writing every morning, a daily ceremony known as the Morning Pages. This acts as a mind-clearing meditation routine, a brainstorming machine and a way of spotting trends: weeks after writing the pages the artist on the Way may analyse his or her morning pages and notice trends in his or her daily writings: unfulfilled artistic urges, changes that need to be made for the person to reach harmony and happiness, sudden ideas and other great things.

2) Take themselves out to at least one Artist’s date per week, in which they have to indulge in whatever it is they love doing but would not normally allow themselves to be lost in (remember, this book is meant for blocked artists -read: most of us-).

3) Complete tasks in personal archaeology and self-discovery, wherein they have to dig up favourite creative childhood pass-times they gave up because of humiliation, “growing up” or other creativity-killing reasons.

I completed my 12(+1 lazy one) weeks a few days ago. I can safely say that it had great effects on me. Doing morning pages has now become more of a good habit of mine, and even if I didn’t do all of the tasks, it’s one of the books you have to go through at some point again for inspiration. It says so in the end, too.

If you’re a blocked artist, believe you can’t do art because you think you’re too old to start or “can’t draw” (or are “tonedeaf” or “terrible at writing” or “have no ideas” ad nauseam), think whatever you do needs to be perfect from the beginning or don’t bother because what you would create wouldn’t appeal to the masses, you should really try following The Artist’s Way.

The only thing I would add to the course itself would be a special NoSurf task or, even better, a complete revisit to the book that takes what the world looks like in 2013 into account; I strongly feel the internet is becoming, at the same time, the most important invention and the single strongest creativity and motivation killer mankind has ever known. I mean, in the 1993 edition that I have, there’s already a no-reading week included in the course for eliminating distractions and for focusing time and energy on the creative juices within, but the internet is proving to be a distraction magnitudes greater than reading the paper or a book could ever be. We come in contact with the works of the world’s most talented and creative on a basis of addiction, almost.

What I really mean is that I’ve grown tired of and alarmed at the great artists I personally know who keep getting demotivated by seeing someone else’s graphic, photo or drawing on Tumblr or listening to that fantastic song or watching that clever video on Youtube, instead of getting inspired, as they claim they should be. It’s more “look how much others have progressed instead of me” and much less “this is possible and I could do it too.”

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