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Is life predestined?
Is life predestined? This question has always puzzled me. Why is it that some people slog like hell and yet have nothing to show for it, while others seem to have the Midas Touch?
I did ask quite a number of people but had not been able to receive a satisfactory answer to my question. Their answers were kind of hazy, and sound to me like 'life is predestined but you have to work for it', which doesn't make much sense to me. To me, if it is predestined, then it should also be predestined that you will work for it.
One very religious Raja Yoga practitioner told me that predestiny is predestiny, only after you have put your heart and soul to making your predestiny materialize. Whatever the outcome, whether phenomenal success or dismal failure, that is your predestiny. Such an answer only left me more confused than ever.
By the way, the Oxford Dictionary defines 'predestiny' as "the belief that all events are determined in advance by divine will or fate." I was reading Joey Yap's 'Bazi, The Destiny Code: Your Guide to the Four Pillars of Destiny' a moment ago, and his explanation is very clear and lucid. And it's precisely because of this that I decided to put pen to paper to share with all those who may still be struggling to find an answer.
To cut out all the suspense and get straight to the point so that you may know where I am coming from, the outcome of one's life is neither fated nor predestined, period. (At this moment, I am just talking about the outcome, though).
The Chinese has a concept called the "Cosmic Trinity of Heaven-Earth-Man" (天地人) which all those who are Chinese-educated are very familiar with. I kept hearing this esoteric phrase from them but no one had been able to explain it to me better than Joey Yap's book. Actually, it is a very simple concept that most of us have already known, if not consciously, at least intuitively.
Concept of Heaven-Earth-Man (天地人)
The word "Heaven" invokes esoteric images that are out of this world but, according to Joey Yap, Heaven-Earth-Man (天地人) simply means this:
Dr. & Master Sha's Source Ling Guang Calligraphy for Healing the Spinal Column
- Heaven: Your God-given gifts; in other words, who your parents are, your siblings, your relatives, your hidden talents, your passions, your weakness, your character, your personality traits, your health, as well as anything that you are born with which are not developed through self-effort.
- Earth: Your environment, i.e. the sum total of all the physical, socio-cultural, economic, and political environment that surrounds you, including your friends, mentors, teachers, and your spouse.
- Man: Your self-efforts and actions, including your attitude.
To readers of the English language, a better way of describing this concept would probably be the 'Interaction of Innate Qualities - Environment - Self-Effort'. The very word, "Self-Effort" clearly shows that life cannot be predestined.
Interaction of Heaven, Earth, and Man
Having read this far, you may well ask, "So what's new?" And you are right! Psychologists have time and again talk about nature versus nurture in the development of our personality. But how many of us have actually consciously taken the time to analyze those three elements in our own life and the relationships between them? Big corporations, however, routinely use this concept in their corporate strategy formulation:
- Review the company's mission, objectives and strategies;
- Carry out a resource audit, i.e. identify the company's strengths (S) and weaknesses (W);
- Scan the environment for opportunities (O) and threats (T);
- Perform a SWOT analysis by matching opportunities (O) to its strengths (S), and avoiding threats (T) that may endanger organizational survival because of its weaknesses (W);
- Generate alternative courses of action; and
- Select the course of action that will best fulfill its mission and objectives.
The Three Elements in Greater Detail
Innate Qualities (Heaven): 'Heaven' is just a word to represent what we are born with, i.e. our talents, our capabilities, and our potential. It defines the maximum limit of one's capacity and potential, and being unchangeable, is therefore static. All of us are born with talents, some more than others. Fortunate are those who, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, began touring Europe with his father to give musical performance to both European royalty and the public alike, when he was aged 5, even before we go to school. His outstanding musical talents first came to light when he was about 3 years old. But how many Mozarts are there?
So, what if we don't have any outstanding talent? Well, then it is like competing in a motor race without being in the pole position. Admittedly, life isn't always fair. But as they say in card games, "It's not just about the hand you're dealt, but how you play it." Seek and you may yet find.
Henri Matisse was trained as a lawyer because that was what his father wanted him to be. In any case, he graduated with distinction. As fate would have it, he suffered an appendicitis, just a year after becoming a lawyer. While recuperating, Matisse's mother brought him some art supplies to kill his time. Of this, he said later, "From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves". Matisse went on to become a leading figure in modern art and, along with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, is commonly regarded as one of the 3 artists who helped define 'plastic arts'. Matisse found his hidden talent only at the age of 20.
When we think of 'God-given gifts' or innate qualities, we, more often than not, think in terms of hidden talent, but we seldom think in terms of health, until we get sick. T.S. Eliot was born with congenital double inguinal hernia. As a child, he was often isolated, as he could not participate in many physical activities with his peers. As a result, he spent his time reading literature. In 1948, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for "his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".
Environment: You may be talented, but so what? Many of us would never have heard of Bruce Lee, had he not moved to Hong Kong. It's not that Hollywood is racist. In fact, they are color-blind, when it comes to box-office success. In the case of the movie, Kung Fu, where they chose David Carradine over Bruce Lee, it was their assessment of what they thought their target audience would prefer to see.
Unlike 'Innate Qualities' (Heaven), the enivronment (Health) is continuously changing, and is therefore dynamic. We may be talented, but if we go into business deep into the recession, we may be asking for trouble. You may have a very fertile plot of land, but try growing corn in winter and it doesn't take much intelligence to know the outcome. Yet, for those who are cash rich and are entering into projects with a long incubation period, the recession may well be a big advantage for them because then, they could get cheap labor easily, so what is a threat to someone may well be an opportunity to another. Singapore built their MRT deep into the recession of the mid-1980s and managed to construct it at a relatively low cost, thereby stretching their dollar (i.e. their resources) that much further. So what we see here is an interaction between 'Heaven' and 'Earth', i.e. our resources and the prevailing environment.
It is clear that just by looking at either our innate abilities or the environment in isolation is not enough, because the sum is greater than its parts. No matter what our innate qualities are, we may not succeed unless we also take into consideration the environment, be it climatic, economic, or socio-political. Thus, if you were born the son of a very wealthy man in China, you probably might not have survived their Cultural Revolution of 1966.
Zig Ziglar: How to get everything in life you want
Self-effort: Self-effort is the last of the 3 elements. If you start with self-effort first, without first analyzing your innate abilities and the environment, you may well end up with having your ladder leaning against the wrong wall, such that the faster you climb, the longer it may take for you to make a U-turn... that is, if you ever make a U-turn. So, always start with analyzing your innate qualities and resources first.
Wheat doesn't grow by themselves. Thus, no matter how fertile your land is, nothing is going to happen, unless you start planting. By now, it should be clear that anything which requires self-effort cannot be said to be predestined.
Zig Ziglar says, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude." Sounds good, even 'logical'. He's touching on the "Man" part of the equation, i.e. self-effort. The problem with self-improvement gurus, as far as I am concerned, is that they do not offer a holistic approach to the subject of self-improvement. I have attended many self-improvement courses during my younger days and it seems like one is parroting the other. Is it not why, after some three decades, I don't see any of my gurus being even half as successful as some of my bosses who never attended a single self-improvement course.
I think many self-improvement gurus hurt more people's future than they help. Zig Ziglar says, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it." Many are those who aspire to be the next Michael Jackson, but without the talent and the aptitude, if you succeed, I will salute you. Is that not why Srikumar Rao, the creator of Creativity and Personal Mastery (CPM) and a former business school professor, says: "Many persons swear by positive thinking, and quite a few have been helped by it. Nevertheless, it is not a very effective tool and can be downright harmful in some cases."
To recap, the outcome of our life is not predestined. It all depends on how well we play our hand (or cards, i.e. our God-given gifts).