Category Archives: Learning

Gifts Make Me Uncomfortable

My birthday was a little less than a week ago. I figure it’s a good time to talk about gifts. We give gifts for various occasions and no particular occasion at all.

I enjoy giving gifts. Seeing the joy and appreciation on a family member or friends face is fantastic. Giving anonymously feels good too, though, even when you’ll never know whether it was even appreciated.

So, given that I enjoy giving gifts, it’s odd how uncomfortable I am with receiving gifts. I know that the person giving me the gift likely gets the same kind of pleasure I do from the act of giving, but it doesn’t make it easier for me to accept gifts. And I’m not talking about any particular gift or any particular gift giver. It’s pretty consistent for most gifts.

I don’t know when it started or what did it. But nearly every time someone gives me something outside of an exchange, it makes me uncomfortable.

I know gift giving isn’t usually reciprocal, at least not on the occasions I have in mind. On my birthday, in this culture and my family traditions, I’m not expected to give gifts to guests. I receive birthday presents. But even on Christmas when it is usually expected to be a gift exchange, I’m uncomfortable receiving.

I can’t really explain the exact feelings. Sometimes I feel a little guilty when receiving a gift. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I should reciprocate, even when the occasion doesn’t call for it.

And sometimes it’s not so much guilt. I actually feel indebted. I know there’s no expectation in most of the cases. I still feel like I owe them some sort of debt. Sometimes even on Christmas when I have reciprocated, regardless of comparative monetary values.

It also makes me feel a little like the way I feel about asking for help. I don’t like to ask for help, even though I like helping people, and I know other people feel the same way about helping me. But I’m working on becoming better at asking for and accepting help.

I read a book on gratitude last year that was sort of an academic look at the history of gratitude in different cultures throughout history. In some cultures, gifts have been used to put another into your debt. Gifts have been used to signify power structures as well, with gifts flowing in either direction. And in other cultures gifts nearly always require reciprocation.

So perhaps it’s partially an inborn trait. Or if you accept the idea of genetic memory, maybe that explains at least some of it.

I just know that gifts have made me uncomfortable for a long time. But like I’ve been doing with asking for and accepting help, I’ve also been working on my feelings about accepting gifts.

They’re related too. Giving help is one kind of gift, and it’s given without expectations, beyond maybe gratitude. So as I get better at accepting help, I think I’ll get better at accepting gifts as well.

Looking Without Seeing

“I can’t find my glasses,” says the seemingly absentminded sitcom character. “They’re on top of your head,” says their levelheaded spouse/friend. It’s a common trope in tv and movies for a reason. I know I’ve been looking for things and not found them, even though I looked right at or past them. I’d imagine most people have had a similar experience.

Thoreau said, “Many an object is not seen, though it falls within the range of our visual ray, because it does not come within the range of our intellectual ray, i.e. we are not looking for it. So, in the largest sense, we find only the world we look for” [Journal, 2 July 1857]. The other day, I thought I was looking for my battery charger, all the while telling myself “I CAN’T find it.” How am I supposed to see something when I’ve convinced myself that I can’t?

He also said, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see” [Journal, 5 August 1851]. I’ve looked right at things without actually seeing them. It’s frustrating, but not surprising.

Zig Ziglar used to have his audience do an exercise to illustrate the point. He tells people to describe their watches without looking at them. Most of the time, they couldn’t say much more than the brand and analog or digital; their own watch that’s on their wrist. What do each of the buttons say? Are there roman numerals or numbers? What’s at the 12-o’clock position? And so on. Next, he has them look at their watch to see how much detail they’ve missed with something that they likely look at many times each day. Last, he asks what time it was, and most people couldn’t say because they were too focused on everything else.

The only watch I wear is my gps watch, and only while I’m running. I look at it quite often while running —probably too often— but I still find myself having to look again right away because I didn’t see something that I wanted to know. Without looking, I also couldn’t tell you much about any text or markings on the bezel, even after I’ve looked at it probably thousands of times.

The reason was that even with all that looking, I wasn’t seeing. It was certainly all in my “visual ray”, but most of it was outside of my “intellectual ray” at the time. That’s not always a bad thing, though. If we were perfectly aware of everything within our field of view, it could quickly overwhelm the mind. So our minds have to try to decide what’s important, what’s worth actually noticing.

All we can try to do is to be more aware of what we’re looking at to truly see it.

You Are Capable of Amazing Things!

“This is too hard. I quit.” What would happen if we got rid of that little but often persistent negative voice? How much more money would we make with the skills that we gave up learning? How much more fit would we be if we stuck with fitness or nutrition habits? How much better would our relationships be if we found ways to improve them?

We learn to walk and talk without doing years of research, reading books, watching videos, years of school or coaches. A baby wants to get around, sees people around them walking and figures it out. She hears her parents, family and others speaking and wants to communicate, so she starts to mimic them.

What if you gave up when learning to walk because it was too hard? What if you got so frustrated as a baby that your parents couldn’t understand your early speech and you decided to quit?

You’re capable of amazing things. Really think about it. You started with nothing, zero, and learned to walk and talk only by watching and listening to your very limited world around you. And we’re not even perfect at walking or talking as adults after decades of practice. I trip, stub a toe, mispronounce words, my voice cracks or I choose the wrong word fairly regularly. I don’t let it stop me, though.

Now if there’s something that’s giving you a problem, there are probably books, blogs or Youtube videos by people who have gone through the same thing. Maybe it’s too much information, though. Analysis paralysis may let you feel like you’re doing something, but it’s just another form of procrastination or avoidance.

Many people also get too wrapped up in strictly following the information they find, rather than trusting that they can figure it out for themselves when they run into problems. You figured it out as a baby, you can figure it out now. Go back to what worked from the very beginning. Watch, practice, experiment, adjust, and practice some more. And if there’s no one to watch, start experimenting yourself. Your first successful step as a baby was not your first attempt.


Practice Learning: the Books and Audiobooks I Finished in 2014

I set a goal to read at least 24 books in 2014 and listen to at least 24 audiobooks. I read 27 and listened to 32 (34 if you count repeats).

Here are all the books I read in 2014 (* = favorites):
1)    The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, by Joseph Murphy
2)    How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market, by Nicolas Darvas
3)    The Power of Awareness, by Neville Goddard
4)    How to get Started in Active Trading & Investing, by David S. Nassar
5)    You’ll See it When you Believe it, by Dr. Wayne Dyer
6)    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by William J. O’Neil
7)    The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles
8)    The Game of Work, by Charles A. Coonradt
9)    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Confusion de Confusiones
10)    Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuk
11)    How to Make Money in Commercial Real Estate for the Small Investor, by Nicholas Masters
*  12)    Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius (free ebook downloads)
13)    How to Buy & Sell Apartment buildings by Eugene Vollucci, Stephen Vollucci
14)    The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield
15)    Survival is not Enough, by Seth Godin
16)    You Can if You Think You Can, by Norman Vincent Peale
*  17)    The Idea Factory, by Pepper White
18)    Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig
19)    Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
*  20)    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
*  21)    Wen-Tzu, by Lao-tzu
*  22)    Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
23)    Open Horizons, by Sigurd F. Olson
24)    Utopia, by Thomas More
*  25)    Five Dialogues, by Plato (free pdf of Plato’s Dialogues, not just the 5)
26)    Wake Up & Live!, by Dorothea Brande
27)    The Magic of Believing, by Claude M. Bristol

Earlier in the year I went through my book collection and found that I had well over 100 books that I haven’t yet read. I made myself a new rule that I had to read at least 2 books I already own for every book that I buy. I think I actually have a couple read books in the bank.

These are all the audiobooks I listened to in 2014:
1)    Get Rich Carefully, by Jim Cramer
2)    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
3)    Coaching for Breakthrough Success, by Peter Chee, Jack Canfield
4)    Screw It, Lets Do It, by Richard Branson
*  5)    Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman
*  6)    Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll
*  7)    The Long Run, by Mishka Shubaly – audiobook (Kindle $1.99 or free with Kindle unlimited)
8)    Abundance, by Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler
*  9)    Choose Yourself!, by James Altucher – audiobook (Kindle $0.99 or free with Kindle unlimited)
*  10)    The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday
11)    I Will Teach you to be Rich, by Ramit Sethi
12)    The Plateau Effect by Hugh Thompson, Bob Sullivan
13)    Stein on Writing, Sol Stein
14)    Contagious, by Jonah Berger
15)    Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi
16)    10% Happier, by Dan Harris
17)    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
18)    The Intelligent Entrepreneur, by Bill Murphy
19)    Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain
20)    How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams
21)    Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, by Tim Harford
22)    100 Great Buinesses and the Minds Behind them, by Emily Ross and Angus Holland
*  23)    MASH, by Richard Hooker
24)    The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, by Andrew Carnegie
*  25)    Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh
26)    Conscious Capitalism, by John Mackey, Raj Sisodia, Bill George
27)    1,000 Dollars & and Idea, by Sam Wyly
28)    Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior: Great Courses
*  29)    The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (listened twice)
30)    How to Stay Motivated, by Zig Ziglar (listened twice)
31)    The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
32)    The Entrepreneurs Toolkit: Great Courses

All audio books on this list were purchased through (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks)
, using their Android app. I have a Platinum monthly membership, meaning two credits per month, generally good for 1 audiobook each. I purchased a couple audiobooks when they were on sale as well.

I find that most audiobook narrators read rather slowly. The Audible app allows you to play at up to 2x speed or slowing to 0.5x speed. I usually listen at 2x. Probably 90% of my listening was while in the car.

I also downloaded some public domain audiobooks from and found another Android audio player app that allows changing playback speed without messing up the pitch (no chipmunk voices) called Maple Player.  Librivox narrators are mostly just regular people who volunteer to read public domain works, so they aren’t always great, but it’s free, and I’m grateful for their work. I didn’t make it through any of these free audiobooks. I started listening to A Tale of Two Cities when I was out of Audible credits, but didn’t finish before the new month’s credits were available. Sometime I’ll go back and finish it.

I’m going for 30 books and 30 audiobooks for 2015. I’m hoping to drive less, so I might not make 32 like I did in 2014.
If you have any questions about any books on my lists or want recommendations, leave a comment or click the little envelope button above or below the post to send me an email.