3 People, 3 Countries, 3 Questions

Three people, from three separate countries has each asked a question. Here are the three questions and their answers.

QUESTION 1: I am a 48-year-old male, suffering from depression.
Like Monica (mentioned in the last article), I am functional and have a job, but am troubled with negative thoughts. I would love to follow your suggestions, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get started. What’s wrong with me? What can I do?

Before answering the first question, I would like to share some facts to point out why the subject of depression is an important one. Although the rates of serious or clinical depression vary around the world, it has steadily risen in the United States, which had a three-fold increase in the last 50 years. In fact, if we compare the rate to that of the year 1900, it has increased by a factor of approximately 10 times!

No doubt the pressures of modern society are severely damaging those who are not prepared, and it points out the need for a positive outlook. To get a clearer picture of the turmoil Americans are facing, consider these facts: in the last 50 years, the divorce rate has doubled, teen suicide has tripled, violent crime has quadrupled, the prison population has quintupled, the number of babies born to unmarried parents has sextupled, and the number of couples living together without marriage has increased sevenfold. With all of these pressures, it is hardly surprising that depression is on the rise.

ANSWER 1: If you are stuck and can’t get started, you first need to work on your depression. You need the help and guidance of a brilliant mind who has been where you are now, has cured himself, and is willing to teach you how to the same. Luckily, help is close by. I’m referring to a book written by the renowned economist Julian Lincoln Simon (1932~1998), former professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.

Professor Simon suffered from a deep, dark depression for 13 years. But spurred on by his curiosity and fascinated by new methods of treatment for depression, he immersed himself in the study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, refining it by adding his own method of treatment, which he called Self-Comparisons Analysis. Once he applied his own method, he cured his depression in just a few weeks, and remained depression-free until his death.

I’m asking our reader to awaken his curiosity and read, apply, and practice the principles outlined by Professor Simon in his outstanding book. To whet our reader’s appetite, here are the comments of someone who read the book:

“I was skeptical. Author Simon somehow cured his chronic depression with a new mode of thinking? How can that be possible? I read the raves about this book and figured, what the hell, worth a try. I have suffered depression for nearly 50 years, although never the suicidal, dysfunctional, weepy kind that leads to withdrawal from life or suicide. Julian Simon examines the type of thinking the depressed do, and the kind of messages they repeat to themselves. Yes, I, too repeated such messages myself, again and again silently. He explains what to do instead – and I’ll be damned – it worked. It is not “jolly thinking,” nor a mantra. It is a different way of messaging yourself, not necessarily positively, but not in the way depressed people think or talk to themselves. And it works, and quickly. I still have the tendency to sink toward depression, but I can now immediately intercept and disrupt a depressed mood before it develops. For me and many others, this book is indeed a miracle.” (M. Harmon, National Security Consultant, Oak Hill, VA, United States)

Here’s the book, “Good Mood” by Julian L. Simon, Open Court Publishing Company, 1993.

If you cannot afford the book, you can read it here for free online.

You can also download the book for free, by going to the same web page and clicking on the menu where it says DOWNLOAD CHAPTER (it’s not a chapter, but the entire book)

Our next question comes from a 28-year-old accountant who has been working in a large corporation for the last 3 ½ years. I will call him Harry and this is his question:

QUESTION #2: I am a firm believer in working hard and achieving goals and come from a business family. In your last article, you said that success comes from hard work, not luck. But we have a few managers in our company who never had a senior position before and are protected by the General Manager. They are paid big salaries, receive better bonuses, and are allowed to do whatever they want.  Do you call that hard work or luck?

ANSWER #2: Harry, your description of the managers reveals resentment and envy. It also reveals you missed the point of the article, which is to get the most from life, we need to ask the right questions. Let me start with a question for you. What do you want from life? Isn’t it to be happy and successful? Well, then, here’s my next question. How does being resentful and envious help you become happy and successful? How does it help you to get along with others (which is necessary for success)?

I’m afraid, Harry, you are asking the wrong questions, and it is precisely because so many people are doing so that I recommended the book, “Change Your Questions; Change Your Life.” Get the book, Harry.

At a time when so many are losing their jobs, how on earth can you be complaining? Aren’t you grateful to be employed, have a good job, be in good health, and live in a growing economy in a country that is at peace? You should be filled with inspiration and aspiration, not desperation.

At times, people become confused with the differences between GOOD JUDGEMENT and BEING JUDGEMENTAL. Good judgment, such as asking the right questions, advances us toward our goals of success and happiness. Good judgment is based on reason; it is rational behavior. On the other hand, when we are judgmental, we abandon reason and act emotionally. We become reactive and erect barriers between ourselves and those we are judging. By separating ourselves from others, we separate ourselves from power, opportunity, success, and happiness.

Harry complains that the managers “are allowed to do whatever they want.” Is that what Harry wants, to be able to do whatever he wants? That’s funny, I thought that the purpose of work was to increase our knowledge, gain social skills, contribute to our company and society, solve problems and overcome difficulties, develop character, and develop self-discipline, which is a major key to success. By the way, isn’t self-discipline the opposite of doing whatever we want?

Harry, instead of observing what the managers are doing, why not study what another one of our writers is doing. If you read his articles, you will realize that Talha Tashfeen Qayyum is always searching for ways to improve his life, not for people or situations to blame or complain about. Those who follow Talha’s example are in control of their lives, but those who choose to complain, allow circumstances to control them.

On the same subject, here’s what George Bernard Shaw (1856~1950) had to say, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose you consider a mighty one, the being a force of nature, rather than a feverish, selfish clod, of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

To all our readers, do not underestimate the power of questions. When NASA discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity, they asked themselves, “How can we design a pen that will write in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on virtually all surfaces, and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 Celsius?” They solved the problem, but at what cost? It took them ten years and 12 billion dollars to succeed. Compare this with the question the Russians asked themselves, “What is the fastest and the least expensive way for us to write in zero gravity?” Their solution? They switched to pencils!

Returning to Harry, It is now time to ask yourself, “Will I continue to do the same things and get the same results, or will I change my questions and change my life?”

QUESTION #3: The third question comes from a 17-year-old young lady. Like our other writers, she wishes to make the most of the precious gift of life and is interested in personal development and achievement. However, she sometimes can’t help wondering, “What’s the point of it all?” That’s her question.

ANSWER #3: Because she is very bright, all she needs is a gentle nudge in the right direction, so I will keep my answer short.

I’ll start with a hint. Don’t ask yourself, “What’s the point of it all FOR ME?” For if you do, the answer will appear clouded and unclear. Rather, ask yourself, “What’s the point of it all FOR OTHERS?” This question will help the clouds to disperse. That is, ask yourself why does the world need you and how can you help.

Next, since our reader is a student and used to studying, I am recommending two books. They are designed to guide her along the correct path, answer her questions, and inspire her. The first book is “Change the Way You See Yourself: Through Asset-Based Thinking” by Kathryn D. Cramer and Hank Wasiak, Running Press, 2008. And to encourage her to get the book, here is a review by a reader:

“I am new to the concept of Asset-Based Thinking and boy am I glad I happened upon this book!  It is – quite simply – a must read for everyone. Entrepreneurs, teachers, parents, managers, executives, stay-at-home mothers, coaches, teenagers, etc.  The ease of the book is what first drew me to it … the option to simply open at any point in the book and glean some sage suggestions and advice. Or reading front cover to back cover. The photos, the exercises, the impact. Just amazing!”

There is also a version of the book specifically written for teens: “Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset-Based Thinking for Teens” by Kathryn D. Cramer and Hank Wasiak, Running Press Kids, 2009. I suggest our young reader look at both versions and decide which is best for her.

The second book is to awaken our reader’s hidden power, by revealing the magnificent being she is. “Internal Power – Seven Doorways to Self Discovery” by Harold W Becker, White Fire Publishing, 2008.