Few years ago, there were things that I really didn’t understand completely. But, again, life has been very kind and allows me to reach the point where I finally understand those things. Here are some of my favorite paradoxes.
“Less is more” when it comes to material things, is finally be understood when you are in the position of more, but never when you’re in the less one. What money literally can buy is pleasure. Food, things, experiences. Will the pleasures make you happy? It’s debatable. Then, knowing and defining your enough are important. These ones are not characters, they are skills that should be learned, if possible mastered. Without that, you’ll never know when to stop and that’s the root of all evil.
Less sugar means more health . In the opposite sense, less sleep means worse health.
“To have an ‘easy life’ in the future means you have to make hard choices in the present”. The opposite will happen if you replace the order.
To think for a long term means you have to beat yourself and working on the shortest period of life. Day to day. A huge change (good or bad) happens in one day of someone’s life, most of the time happened from years of waiting and hardworks full of failures (or years of not doing things properly if it is the opposite).
“The more you learn, the more you realize how very little you know”. Knowledge is limitless. Your time to learn things is not.
Also, you’ll learn more doing things that you don’t-like-but-you-have-to than doing one you like and you want to. Being uncomfortable means you face many possibilities of learning that you won’t get with being comfortable.
That’s why I don’t believe in the phrase ‘anak jangan dipaksa-paksa’. In order to know their limit, they have and need to be pushed for the right amount to the right direction. They have to be uncomfortable. Our job as parents is to give them experiences where they can learn things they need later to live their own life. They need to be equipped to face the real jungle out there. To do this, it’s not comfortable for everyone but the more it feels uncomfortable, the more it shows that you are doing the right thing. It is important because the most important ability a child to master is the ability to live without their parents.
Disclaimer : this one is applicable in learning some useful skills, not staying in abusive relationship.
Talking about these paradoxes reminded me with similar thing which is one way of thinking that I have been using since the first time I lived without my parents. It is called inversion.
Inversion is a method for thinking about a problem differently. To solve a problem, instead of think of linear solution, we think about the opposite. Sometimes, to solve a problem, you need to think and see differently. It requires you to look at things from a different angle to embrace a new perspective.
At that time, by doing inversion, literally and figuratively, observing certain things for days, I managed to change my gloomy daily morning trip to school became a happy one.
Before, I needed to leave my grandma’s house at the very least 5.15 am if I wanted to arrive at school on time. I needed to take around 1,5 hours trip by crazily full bus and continued with high-demand-low-capacity angkot. There were many days where I needed to fight for a tiny empty seat because they didn’t want to take schoolers since they paid less than worker passenger. I could and wanted to pay full price, but it was hard when the driver already saw me with school uniform. There were days when I insanely hung tightly on the door of the angkot because I had no choice. There was also a minibus called Kopaja. They welcomed schooler but the problem was their service was not any better. For me it was even worse than angkot because the petite me had to be trapped among so many taller and bigger people and it made so difficult to get out when I arrived at the school. At times, I had to walk longer because the driver didn’t hear my request to stop.
Do not imagine it was like what we have now where almost all public transport are with air conditioner, only stop at the bus stop, and rarely jammed with people. It was hot, packed until there was no room to breathe well, full of odour that made you dizzy, and you felt like getting out of utter mess once you got off. There were days when it felt so frustrating because went through that daily was beyond exhausting.
It kept going like that until I did a little observation for days about the route of the bus. I couldn’t depart earlier anymore (how early an 13-yo should go to school than 5.15am? Departed at such hour it means I woke up at least an hour before!). I also couldn’t afford to go by taxi daily, I couldn’t find any other alternative transportations, I couldn’t find any other routes to go to the school other than what I had been through.
But then, I finally found something through the opposite way of thinking.
The result was incredible. I managed to cut the length of trip from one and half hour to 30 minutes. Instead of following the bus to the end of the route and fought with employees to get on that rare angkot or being sardened in morning kopaja, I managed to find that this bus passed a bus stop that sent me to the school through the opposite direction and it was actually only 10 minutes away from my departure bus stop. Then I could continue with the same that high-demand-low-capacity angkot, only this time, I had the whole empty angkot for myself, waved goodbye to traffic jam, and had chance to do a little bit of morning walk through the pedestrian bridge since I came from the opposite way.
At that time, I went to school daily accompanied by a big brother cousin who had to send me until I got on to the angkot. After that, he went to the office where it was on the opposite location of my school. My school on the south, while his office was on the north. So, that daily morning trip to the school was not only hard for me but also for another person.
When I proposed the idea that I had found another much shorter route to the school, he looked hesitant. But, because I was so persistent and asked to him to see this first, he gave up and followed.
When he finally saw the route, he looked as happy as I was. It meant that he had more time to go to his office leisurely. It showed how a little thinking could improve everyone’s well being drastically.
Isn’t it a literal meaning of inversion? That was one of my eureka moments as an 13 year old. Solving my own problems, although it was so simple, but it went beyond that. It changed my whole mood drastically. It made me study better and felt so much happier.
Another thing that reminded me of doing this kind of thinking was when I managed to find ways to send the whole family to this trip. The paradox of less is more and inversion thinking were truly applicable here. The less money you had for the things you desperately want, the more active your brain in finding solutions to achieve that. Since earning more money or sign up for debt wasn’t applicable at that time, finding ways to reduce cost became the solution.
Inversion is also applicable in other kind of situations. For example, like the famous Charlie Munger said about wealth and investing : it is not about earning more, but the rules is to never lose money.
In parenting, there many things that I don’t know, like what kind of life that my little girl will have or what a kind of person she will grow up to be, but I know what kind of life I don’t want her to have and kind of person I don’t want her to grow up to be, so I started from there.
We don’t always know what we want so it’s easier to go from the things that we don’t want.
If I think about it, I am doing quite a lot of inversion and paradox in daily life. Like when it is fasting day, instead of laying low to not tiring myself and just doing little simple things, I found myself on the opposite by doing more than the usual. Instead of feeling low, I found my energy is higher than usual during fasting day.
Closing quote from the famous wise man book The Republic :
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.