Beyond Positive Thinking

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall… Who’s the fairest of them all?”

If you ask this question, and repeat constantly in your mind, “I am, I am, I am”, will that make you ready to walk down the catwalk as a supermodel? If you are struggling to make ends meet and are strapped for cash, will thinking “I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich”, suddenly make a few million dollars materialise in your bank account?

As much as the notion of positive thinking has developed into a worldwide self-help trend, unfortunately, the reality of life and its inherent dualities simply cannot be ‘thought’ away through positive thinking. If you shut out the reality that you are not quite supermodel material, or that you are not next in line for the latest addition to the world’s rich list, then essentially all that positive thinking is, in fact, negative thinking. And that, my friends, could do you more harm that good.

Let me explain.

There is such a thing as the dualities of life. I’ve spoken about these dualities in one of my previous Gems (Maybe, Maybe Not. 28 January 2009) and tried to impart the importance of not being influenced by the ‘ups and downs’ of life. Because no matter what we desire or what we want, who are we to know when something happens to us is ‘bad’ or ‘good’. There is no escaping the fact that everything has its opposite. And what we may think of as ‘bad’, could in fact be setting us up for something ‘good’. The point is, we can not allow our moods and attitudes to be pushed around by the natural dualities of life.

Opposites are everywhere, they will always exist, and each opposite is vital to us. Night and Day. Light and Dark. Rich and Poor. Good and Bad. Without heat, there would be no cold. Without pain and suffering, there cannot be happiness. You cannot have a front without a back.

It is the same with positivity; negativity is the opposite of positivity.

So, when you ‘pretend’ that you are rich, you are ignoring the fact that you must first identify the fact that you are poor before you will actually do something constructive to change your reality. In other words, if you want to be rich, the first thing you must admit is that you are poor. Then, you can do something about becoming rich. You must realise the reality first.
This is why I say that real positive thinking means that you have to go beyond positive thinking. You must rise above positivity as well as negativity. A real sage or a real saint is someone who is beyond the push and pull of positivity and negativity. This is transcendental… to transcend the nature of things. This means that when you feel happiness, you should not become elated. And when you are sad, you should not become despondent. Rise above it all, take the good with the bad, and realise you can’t have one without the other.

Let’s all face up to reality and go beyond positive thinking. Let’s think beyond positive and negative and look at the real thing: Duality and the need for both sides of the coin. Real contentment can only be found within. Before we ask the mirror “who is the fairest of them all?”, we should already know the answer and what we are going to do about it.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

Societal Equality… What Does It Really Mean?

In society, everyone has a role to play. We all have a prescribed duty. Are some duties more important than others? Certainly. But in terms of function, every role is equally important to contribute to the sustained survival of society. We need the street sweepers and we need the heads of Government. We need the school teachers and we need the students. The individual importance of each is not the same, but the importance placed on each function when considered as part of a whole society is indeed equal to the well-being of society.

The concept of ‘equality’ has been misconstrued over the years. For example, women’s liberation activists will petition that women and men are equal. This is correct in terms of function, but not in terms of ability and purpose – because ‘equal’ does not mean ‘the same’. Men cannot give birth. Women are much more poorly equipped, physically and biologically, for heavy manual labour, than men. Yet, we need the functions of both men and women. There is a reason that men and women are built differently, both physically and mentally.

Similarly, the concept of equality in society has been misunderstood and distorted.

Consider the physical body. We have legs for walking, a stomach for eating, arms for administrative work and to protect the body, and we have a head to do our thinking. All this bodily division acts according to its function and, when each part works as per its function, you have a body that is efficient and effective.

On a whole, if you look at society, the different divisions or inclinations of people in general can be akin to the body. In society, the legs are the labourer class. They are the ones doing the street work and our construction. That’s their function in society. The stomach of society is the mercantile class who engage themselves in business. They ‘feed’ society. The labourers would not have work without them. In society, the hands are the administrators. They do the admin work, police work, government duties, and general management of society. They set and enforce taxes, laws, and guidelines for daily life. Finally, the head of society are the thinkers, the philosophers, the priests, the monks, the scientists, the philanthropists, etc. The head protects the morality, ethics, and religiosity of society. They influence the administration class to enforce guidelines that would make this world a better place. We need all four ‘classes’ to have a fully functional society, but certainly there is an inherent hierarchical system.

Still not convinced? Think of a bee colony. There are workers, drones, and a Queen.  Individually, the Queen is obviously the most ‘important’. But if each worker bee and drone bee did not fulfil their function, the whole colony would fail and die, including the Queen.

We need each function in society, just like we need each body part. But one thing that is often forgotten is that a person becomes a member of each ‘class’, not because of birth, but because of qualification. This is where the caste system in India began to be severely misunderstood. Just because a person is born into a family of labourers, does not preclude that person from raising themselves through education, determination, and generally qualifying themselves to complete the function of a ‘higher class’. A person’s prescribed duty depends on a person’s values, upbringing, and set of inclinations.

According to our inclinations, we all have different work. The point is that whatever our calling is, we should fulfil it to the very best of our ability. If your job is to serve at a restaurant, then give the best service you possibly can. If your job is to run a company, then be the most professional, ethical, hard-working director that you can possibly be.

If today you are a mommy, then be the best mommy. Don’t complain about staying home; what type of society would we have if every single child was raised by a maid, rather than his/her parents? If you are a boss, don’t complain about having to go to work every day. Set a good example; this is your prescribed duty and it is you who aspired to be in this position.

One last thing to remember, is that in life, we all have multiple roles to play. A CEO is not just a CEO, but also a husband, a father, a friend, a son. When you go home, take off your CEO hat… Don’t start setting KPIs for your four-year-old child.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

If You Complain, You Are To Blame

There is something that we all do every day, yet we usually don’t notice that we are doing it. Nor do we notice the effect that it has on ourselves or on others.

This ‘something’ that we do every day has become so ingrained in us that if we stopped to analyse why we are doing it, I really don’t think we’d have an answer.

The thing that we all do is complain. Complain, complain, complain.

It’s a cloudless day and the sun is shining its warmest embrace. You have the day off work, so you put your feet up to relax on the balcony while reading the paper. It is pure paradise as the birds sing in the background. The only thing wrong is… all the mosquitoes!

Or maybe this is somewhat familiar: You’ve waited so long for your new car to arrive at the dealership and once you get the call that your shiny new model has arrived, you race down to pick it up and drive away.  And then, the traffic light turns red and you start cursing to yourself with utter impatience while you wait for the light to turn green.

Never will we find a perfect situation wherein a person would stop complaining. Even when we finally find a place that is perfect paradise, there’d be mosquitoes.

We have everyday experiences that impact on our reality and on us. It is up to us to determine how these experiences impact us. Shall we get annoyed and complain to anyone who will listen to us? Or should we look for the opportunity within the challenge; should we take it as a lesson learned and move on as a better and improved person? It is a case of one person seeing the glass half empty, while the other sees it as half full.

If it is raining and you get wet, don’t complain that you’re getting wet. Of course you are getting wet! You went into the rain, didn’t you? So, it’s your fault. Just go get an umbrella.

With all the complaining, it seems that everyone is doing the wrong thing, more or less, as we have complaints for everything and everyone…except for ourselves. You see, ‘Complain’ has a cousin. To be able to complain, you have to be able to blame someone or something. So, ‘Blame’ is the cousin of Complain.

As soon as you start blaming others, then it becomes an indefinite belief habit that the problem is ‘them’ or ‘it’, but never ‘me’. Then, as you blame the things and events around you, you start to see the world as the problem. The thought process that follows is that you think you need to change people, things and the world, so that you will not have to complain about them. This leads to the need to control and dominate. You never see it as your fault, and at this stage, you start imposing your beliefs, your rights and your opinions on other people to change them. You try to change people without ever looking inwards towards yourself as the subject that needs changing.

Anyone who has been to a hospital would have expected to see sick people there. Why? Because a hospital is for sick people and they go to the hospital to get better, so we expect to see sick people at a hospital, right? Well, similarly, the world is like a big hospital filled with imperfect people, including yourself and myself, who are all here to get better and to improve and develop ourselves. That’s what life is basically all about — to improve ourselves and cure ourselves of our envy, our greed, our anger. All these sicknesses we have as people, you can cure them by seeing the disease of others. Because the diseases you see, should be reflected upon yourself. You must realise that you too, are not perfect. This is the beginning of making an actual positive change as a person: recognising you are at fault.

Let’s try, even for just one week, to stop complaining. Every morning when you wake up, make a promise to yourself that you won’t complain. You won’t blame. You will look to within for the change that you feel needs to be made in order to stop complaining. Good luck.


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

Putting the ‘Happy’ in a “Happy New Year”

Late every December, I wish people a ‘Happy New Year’ and of course, I receive the same year-end wish in these three little words from my friends, family and even strangers. At this time of year, we hear ‘Happy New Year’ everywhere we turn, because we’re expecting the coming 12 months to bring us something new, something different, something that will finally make us ‘happy’.

Everyone wants to be happy. While we’re busy wishing everyone a ‘Happy New Year’, we should be taking some time to look at what we did in the year that has just gone by and figure out why it didn’t make us happy. We were wished a happy new year last year, weren’t we? So, what went wrong?

I’ve been contemplating New Year’s resolutions a lot lately. A ‘resolution’ is a former solution from last year that we weren’t able to complete, or perhaps that didn’t make us happy. Therefore, we need to repeat it or improve it. Hence, the word ‘re-solution’.

It seems we are always wishing for the world around us to change before we can be happy. “I’ll be happy if I get a new job, or if there is a change in government, or if I get that new car I’ve had my eye on, or if I had more money…” Do any of these sound familiar?

The fact is that the search for real and lasting happiness and contentment should not be conducted in the world around us. The quest begins and ends within ourselves. In order to be happy, we must change, not the things around us. We must change our lifestyle, our mindset, our actions, our thoughts, and our attitudes. It is my opinion that at a time of making New Year’s resolutions and wishing those around us to be ‘happy’ in the new year, we should look inwards towards ourselves and become more analytical of why we’re not happy and how we can be happy.

How can you be happy if you’re not going to make major changes? Resolutions…? No, no, I don’t want to talk about resolutions. Let’s talk about solutions; solutions you have to realise to ensure you really do have a ‘Happy New Year’.

There are four propensities in life – eating, sleeping, mating, and defending – that we share with animals. But there are four fundamental principles that we, as human beings, are capable of that separates us from animals: Austerity, Cleanliness, Mercifulness, and Truthfulness. These are the foundations of human life and to be truly happy, we must change ourselves from within to embody these principles in order to discover what it truly means to be happy.

How can you be happy if you are not truthful and you wrap your life in deceit?

If you are not cleansed in the mind, body and soul, do you honestly think such impurity can lead to deep-seated happiness?

Compassion, tolerance and forgiveness are all part of being merciful and are tantamount to a life happily led.

The ability to accept discomfort and pain for the greater good, to express austerity, to make sacrifices for the ones you love; happiness comes from giving ourselves for others, no matter what the cost.

I believe that these four pillars are what will make one happy. They are all interrelated and they are all bricks in the road to happiness. But you must pave these bricks yourself.

This year, think about how you can change from within and apply these four principles to your life. It won’t come easy; it takes practice to achieve the height of happiness that is available to us all if only we look inside ourselves and make the change.

So, in all sincerity and with all the best intentions, I truly wish every one of you a very Happy New Year. May you be blessed in 2010 by taking the first step towards being truly happy.


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd