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3 Wonderfully Inspiring Lessons Learned from Classic Literature

3 Wonderfully Inspiring Lessons Learned from Classic Literature

Study the classics, they say, but make your own rules. In a similar tone, Edgar Degas claims that “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” If the reader is indeed the one who writes the story by filling in the blanks with his own intellect, imagination and sentiment, then no literature piece is ever fully red, nor fully written.

Instead of being fossilized, forever closed structures with a single, universal moral, classic books have the power of opening themselves toward the world. If there’s anything universal about them, it’s the innate, deeply human truth that makes them applicable to every age and culture, and most importantly, to each of our lives.

So, let me ask you a question: when was the last time you drank vodka with Dostoyevsky? Sure, we’ve all had our fair share of “Crime and Punishment” during our high school years, but I dare you to pay another visit to poor Rodya!

Now that your consciousness – which envelopes both your self-awareness and understanding of the world – has fully developed, this failed overman will teach you a couple of life tricks more. First, you’ll be surprised at how many things you never understood in your mind’s youth; then, you’ll realize that Dostoevsky is every bit as hardcore as our modern Burroughses and Bukowskis.

Overwhelmed by pure ingenuity, elevated by a pageantry of style, you’ll see yourself anew.

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1. The Iliad: What Life is Really About

    Now, you can start your journey at the beginning, in the formidable company of one Gilgamesh, but the Plant of Heartbeat will keep slipping away. In consolation, you’ll learn a thing or two about immoderation, the power of twinship and inevitability of death; though born god-like, we all die as humans that we are. Similar, if not the same, is the destiny of your first companion, Achilles.

    Assuming you hadn’t dozed off at the English class in question, you’ll likely remember that one of the major themes in Homer’s Iliad is a quest for everlasting glory. A thirst for Kleos urges both our hero and his counterpart, Hector, though their reasons greatly differ. While the latter acts in the name of family, love and honour, Achilles does it all for the immortality. And, for the sake of immortality, he slaughters them all.

    The next time we encounter him, the glorified warrior claims he’d rather “follow the plow as thrall to another man, one with no land allotted him and not much to live on, than be a king over all the perished dead”. Without going deeper into the analysis of the Odyssey from which this quote is taken, I’ll remind you of this – the restless Odysseus finds him in the Underworld, deeply disappointed in his life choices.

    The moral is quite simple, yet universal and omnipresent: whenever you lust to achieve, take it slow. The ultimate victory – be that an everlasting legacy or not – is meaningful only when shared with your loved one (Briseis), your friends (Patroclos) and your family (Peleus), so be sure not to lose them in the process.

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    2. Hamlet: It’s the Thought that Counts

      What is the value of life in the face of death, and can human beings achieve immortality are questions old as time. To question ourselves and what surrounds us, however, is not only our prerogative, but our very nature; even when unanswered, questions compel us to grow and spread inwards and outwards alike. That’s why our quest for lessons to live by continues with the prince of inquisition himself, Hamlet.

      The madman that he is, Shakespeare’s Hamlet truly makes you wonder. The reasons we failed so gloriously to understand the significance of the world’s most contemporary drama are the very reasons behind Hamlet’s own flounder – the uncertainty of knowledge and the complexity of what makes it actionable. Is there any way of knowing the truth with utmost confidence? Are our own thoughts as elusive as the meaning itself? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, meanwhile, and the evil prevails.

      Hamlet’s indecisiveness is understood too lightly and misunderstood too often. Rather than a lack of action, it implies the inner schism that tortures us all – are we heavenly beings or predestined fallers, inherently good or inclined to evil, human or dancers? Whatever the ambivalence, the reconciliation of contradictory wholes, as always, lays within a thought. The greatest critical thinker of them all, Hamlet chooses not to act until he fathoms the naked truth, if there is any at all.

      No lecturer is more monumental than Shakespeare, nor will there ever be one, and the lessons from Hamlet will only continue to pile up with time. For the time being, take the ultimate one: the world is endlessly complex, governed not only by reason, but emotions, psychology and ethics as well; the only way to glance at the truth is to think and evaluate. Only then, your actions are justified.

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      3. Anna Karenina: In Pursuit of Fulfilment

        Speaking of uncertainties, has there ever been a bigger one than Anna Karenina? The debates will never end. Rather than the most popular one (“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”), two other quotes from Tolstoy’s saga stir up the discussion.

        Throughout all interpretations, Anna Karenina stays the ultimate novel about marriage as the epitome of love and the (im)possibility of happiness and harmony: “Man survives earthquakes, epidemics, the horrors of disease, and agonies of the soul, but all the time his most tormenting tragedy has been, is, and will always be, the tragedy of the bedroom.” To compensate, like Stiva and Dolly (thesis), break molds like Anna and Vronsky (antithesis) or to seek marriage in love and love in nature like Levin and Kitty (synthesis), that is the question.

        Though choices are different for all characters, the pursuit of the other half is the same and eternal. A human life is nothing but a never-ending yearning for partnership and fulfillment, regardless of where, when and how. Both Anna and her long lost brother Levin linger in stark discontent, but while she gets terribly lost in her pursuit, he eventually finds his furrow. What makes them the same is the love that’s absolute and, more importantly, pure.

        So, should we judge our Anna or not? “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”, cites Tolstoy. Karenina’s motives may be pure, but her actions are soiled with blind, selfish determination. Love is a force of harmony, not destruction, and that’s only the main of many Tolstoy’s life lessons. We all bear or crosses and it’s not ours to judge, would be the second.

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        And, there you go – the true meaning of life, the vast importance of thought and the true nature of love are the three most vital lessons in the universe. Seemingly simple, they move us forward, compel us to search for the reason behind it all. Rather than lessons, these classical thoughts stand as a foundation that our humanity has been built upon.

        Along with Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”, which reminds us that “Manuscripts don’t burn”, thus introducing the question of art and its all-prevailing eternity, Camus’s “The Stranger” that argues that the ultimate freedom lies in acceptance of existence as it is, however, absurd or meaningless in the face of the universe it may be, and many, many others, the likeliness of Achilles, Hamlet and Anna Karenina hold the key to a simple, ruminated and fulfilled life. Ultimately, that’s everything we could ever wish for.

        Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/yIMy3ERBc3o via pexels.com

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        Aleksandar Ilic

        Blogger, Social Media Butterfly, Guitarist

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        Last Updated on November 19, 2019

        20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

        20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

        Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

        If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

        1. Create a Daily Plan

        Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

        2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

        Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

        3. Use a Calendar

        Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

        I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

        Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

        4. Use an Organizer

        An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

        These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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        5. Know Your Deadlines

        When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

        But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

        6. Learn to Say “No”

        Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

        Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

        7. Target to Be Early

        When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

        For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

        Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

        8. Time Box Your Activities

        This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

        You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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        9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

        Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

        10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

        Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

        You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

        11. Focus

        Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

        Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

        Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

        12. Block out Distractions

        What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

        I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

        When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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        Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

        13. Track Your Time Spent

        When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

        You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

        14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

        You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

        Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

        15. Prioritize

        Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

        Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

        16. Delegate

        If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

        When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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        17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

        For related work, batch them together.

        For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

        1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
        2. coaching
        3. workshop development
        4. business development
        5. administrative

        I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

        18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

        What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

        One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

        While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

        19. Cut off When You Need To

        The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

        Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

        20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

        Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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