Quora Saturday: African leaders, study habits, judging girlfriends, good writers, and anime addiction

November 26, 2016 by Joshua
in Quora

Continuing my Saturday series on posting my answers to questions from Quora, here are my next questions answered:

Q: Why are most African leaders mediocre?

A: I can’t speak to most African leaders, but I have to mention three counterexamples to what you’re implying.

First, I think nearly anyone would rank Nelson Mandela as one of the great leaders of all time. He became the father of a nation. Among other achievements, he negotiated his unconditional release face to face with Apartheid Presidents from in prison. Then he got their jobs in the nation’s first free elections.

Second, Gandhi began leading in Africa before returning to India.

Third, ancient Egypt, while a long time ago, had dynasties lasting thousands of years. In other words, it lasted in some form longer than it has been gone. Such durability and, at times, dominance, implies some successful leadership.

Also, what region hasn’t had its share of mediocre leaders? Where I live, North America, certainly has.

Q: How do I develop a habit of studying in noise?

A: I recommend not creating that habit but of finding ways to escape the noise.

Is the noise absolutely unavoidable? Can you find other places or times? Can you work or negotiate with the people creating the noise to create quiet times or places?

What other options can you create to give yourself silence?

Can you think of others who solved this problem before that you can learn from?

Can you think of other resources you could bring to bear here—people, institutions, etc?

Q: How can I leave my girlfriend? I don’t love her anymore but I am afraid that she will hurt herself, she is a really weak girl.

A: I have never found it helpful to take responsibility for another adult’s emotions or behavior. One the contrary, to allow them responsibility for their emotions and behavior is, in my experience, allows for more empathy and compassion.

For her to claim you are responsible for her emotions or behavior is her attempt to control you, which can only happen if you abdicate your control—that is, you responsibility for your emotions and behavior.

I recommend treating her with empathy and compassion, while doing what you think is right. Some amount of pain is inevitable in ending a relationship, so the process won’t likely be fun, but you can do it and she is responsible for herself after.

Q: Are you a good writer?

A: I write better now than ever, in my opinion, though I’ll write better in the future.

I don’t just write to be read, also to explore ideas, to develop discipline, to communicate with people I care about and things like that. I’ve had friendship develop into intimate, loving relationships mostly over email.

Writing every day for over five years—Here is my archive of over 2,300 posts so far—creates a great structure for my life. By the measure of writing improving my life, I’m a good writer.

My consistent writing also led to a column at Inc.com—Joshua Spodek’s articles | Inc.com—and a book contract with a publisher, which seem objective measures of my writing quality.

Q: How do I stop watching anime?

A: An old post of mine is relevant here. I wrote it about emotions, which motivate us, and you’re trying to change your motivations.

In short, instead of trying to stop watching one thing, start doing other things so you don’t have time for the old stuff. I recommend things you do outdoors or with groups, like sports, going out, taking classes, and other hobbies.

Good luck!

Crowding out beats letting go

I have a friend who says he can voluntarily let go of emotions he doesn’t want to hold on to anymore. I’ve let go of many things, but never in the moment from conscious intent. He sounds sincere, but frankly I doubt him.

Like telling an angry person to calm down, suggesting someone let go of something is counterproductive advice. Trying to let go of something voluntarily focuses your mind on it, often achieving the opposite of your goal.

Whenever I’ve let go of something important, I’ve always noticed it after the fact. One day I realize I haven’t been thinking about some girl or dwelling on a past event for a while. I can’t identify the time of letting go.

To let go of something, I find filling my mind with new stuff and crowding out the old stuff is more effective. If I have an itch I don’t want to scratch, my best way for it not to bother me is to occupy my mind on something else. Thinking about the itch only makes it worse.

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