Danyal Zia A freelance software developer and writer.

5 great quotations which make you reconsider your existence

5 great quotations which make you reconsider your existence

Often we found ourselves in the grip of existential depression, where the life stops making sense. At such moments, spending time with like-minded people improves the emotional health and may help you in finding the good in life. However, at times, you don't find anyone around you. I found the following quotes incredibly fascinating which can get you out of the existential crisis:

1) "Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits." - Ludwig Wittgenstein

Reading this poetic utter of Ludwig, you might not be able to grasp the meaning at first, as he didn't mention the perspective through which he sees the life. In this quote, he meant that we can't experience "death" because our consciousness stops when are dead. We can only experience "dying". If you are living to experience a death, then you are not living at all. There is no death for us. We all are eternal.

2) "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." - Friedrich Nietzsche

This is a remarkable quotation of Friedrich. He argued that people only see things from their perspectives, which is shaped by their experiences, genetics and environmental factors. When the same people find someone "out of the box", they laugh at him, bully him, or even hurt him verbally and physically in order to "fix" him, because they think they care for him, believing the person does things because of his insanity, without realizing the inherent meaning or motivation or possibilities.

3) "A perfection of means and a confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem." - Albert Einstein

Many problems in the world can be solved in the correct way. We have the potential to fix our problems right away; we human beings are good at getting things done, especially when we are passionate about it because the values matches ours, but we are extremely bad at deciding what should be done.

4) "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer

People don't actually accept the truth. They end up calling it "self-evident" when they can't go anywhere in their intellectual pursuits to defend themselves. This is, of course, said with a perspective which conflates opinion with truth.

5) "Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich beautifully translated "Ignorance is a bliss" into the human language. The desire for truth, the curiosity of things leads to the destruction of one's health. It's terrible to find the truth: the collective beliefs of people turn out to be delusional, language and culture which make people less isolated use lying and fakery to get the aims, forcing people to get into escapism.

Idealism with Cynicism is possible

Idealism with Cynicism is possible

A balance in life is the pursuit of many of us who strive for perfection. We often fall in the temptation to use black-and-white labels, such as, good or bad, warm or cool, etc. when describing things, even when its original meaning is more than a whole. We need to look no further than the fact that people are described as "The glass is half-empty" pessimistic or the "The glass is half-full" optimistic people, but, in real life, people come in a bell-shaped curve, falling somewhere in the scale.

One of the ideological spectrum is "Idealism vs Cynicism", which are normally considered on the polar opposite, as both the ideologies weaken the each other. Idealism has its roots in the old centuries, where people thought that through the proper ways, they can change the welfare of human beings, and thus change within a society is possible.

Idealism asserts that the reality, as we see, is actually shaped by the ideas and interest that originally arises in the mind of people, regardless of the external reality. What that means is that people are the catalyst of change in a society. Idealists are skeptical regarding the mind-independent reality, and they tend to believe that what we perceive in the world is purely mental. It is contrasted with pragmatism, which focus on the realities, the actual meaning of things, without the subjective interpretation of a person.

Cynicism, on the other hand, asserts that people are motivated purely by self-interest; that is, altruism is a plain illusion. People who high on Cyncisim scale believes that people cannot be changed, and they inherently have selfish motives. They tend to believe that most decisions which human beings take are actually deterministic due to the external factors, including genetic, environment, etc., meaning there is no will power, or at least not in the way defined by religious/philosophical school of thoughts.

Some people assume that idealists are comparatively happier than their cynic counterpart, as they tend to be optimistic. I would argue that Happiness is not correlated with either of the sides. For instance, a cynic might be happy, because he has observed the humankind, and realized that it can't be changed, or at least not in the way Idealists think, so he happily accepts the bitter reality and try to live his life to the fullest. On the other hand, Idealist, who, although stereotyped as an optimistic person, might be disappointed to see the world not running as per his expectations, so he would remain in a depressed state.

Many critics argue that some kind of cynicism is necessary in our life. Thus, Idealism must not be considered an easy road for those who seek happiness or positive outlook of the world.

Now reflecting on my experience, I really fall in the middle of this spectrum, I would say I am an idealist hidden under the mask of a cynic.

If you must choose the one between the two, which one would you choose, and why?

Adding Twitter Cards To Jekyll

Adding Twitter Cards To Jekyll

In the past, I've discussed about the Open Graph and its integration with Jekyll, where Open Graph tags are used in the HTML to control the content display while sharing on social media networks, particularly Facebook. The tags work pretty well on those sites which natively support Open Graph, such as, Facebook, Google+, etc., however, Twitter doesn't support Open Graph tags to control the content's display.

Worry not, as Twitter provide Twitter Cards with its own tags to support the content display control of your blog posts which you share on Twitter. What it actually does, is that it can provide a title, thumbnail and description of your blog post just below your tweet which you shared on your Twitter profile. This results in a higher probability of Click-through rate, as such links look cool and encourages your audience to click on your links. By simply adding a few lines of HTML to your webpage, the users who Tweet links to your content will have a “Card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.

Jekyll, as we have seen before, supports pretty much anything one can do with HTML/CSS/Javascript. With the inclusion of a short code snippet in your Jekyll repository, you can easily integrate Twitter Cards to your Jekyll site. Although, Twitter Cards come in 4 flavours (Summary Card, Summary Card With Large Image, App Card, Player Card), I chose the Summary Card because of its simplicity. Following is the process of adding the Summary Card to your Jekyll site:

1) Understand the structure of your site

Summary Card allows the users to preview the site content within a tweet. In order for Twitter Cards to support your site, you must have three parameters in your site: title, description and image. Twitter Cards will use that information to create a unique card for your links. title, description and url can be either added in _config.yml or in the YAML Front Matter block of your blog posts. The relevant parts in my _config.yml looks like following:

title:               Danyal Zia
description:         "Danyal Zia's thoughts on software development, personal development and writing."
url:                 http://danyalzia.com
avatar:              media/images/danyal-zia-avatar.png

Relevant parts in the YAML Front Matter block of my blog posts:

title: 5 ways to motivate yourself
description: The guide to develop your self-motivation
thumbnail: /media/images/motivation.jpg

2) Add the Twitter Cards snippet

As you are using Jekyll like me for your blogging/website needs, the simplest way to add Twitter Cards to your site is to find head.hml in your _includes folder and add the code snippets of Twitter Summary Cards under <head>. The basic HTML meta tags that Twitter provides looks like the following:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@flickr" />
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Small Island Developing States Photo Submission" />
<meta name="twitter:description" content="View the album on Flickr." />
<meta name="twitter:image" content="https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5510/14338202952_93595258ff_z.jpg" />

You can manually add your title, description and image, but we can use liquid syntax to automatically scrap the objects from our Jekyll blog. My complete code looks like the following:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary">
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@site_username">
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@creator_username">
{% if page.title %}
  <meta name="twitter:title" content="{{ page.title }}">
{% else %}
  <meta name="twitter:title" content="{{ site.title }}">
{% endif %}
{% if page.url %}
  <meta name="twitter:url" content="{{ site.url }}{{ page.url }}">
{% endif %}
{% if page.description %}
  <meta name="twitter:description" content="{{ page.description }}">
{% else %}
  <meta name="twitter:description" content="{{ site.description }}">
{% endif %}
{% if page.thumbnail %}
  <meta name="twitter:image:src" content="{{ site.url }}/media/images/{{ page.thumbnail }}">
{% else %}
  <meta name="twitter:image:src" content="{{ site.url }}/media/images/danyal-zia-avatar.png">
{% endif %}

Here, I chose Twitter handle for both site and creator. If it's a blog post, then the title would be the name of the blog post, otherwise it will be the name of the blog (i.e., Danyal Zia). Similar logic has been applied for url, description and image.

Instead of adding the code in head.html, I created a new file twittercards.html, copied the code in it, and included in my head.html.

{% include twittercards.html %}

3) Validate your links for Twitter Cards

Now, once you have added the code in your head.html, you need to update the source trunk of your Jekyll blog and validate your links from here. This will also add your site in the whitelist for the future validation.

Conclusion

In this blog post, I have provided the information on Adding the Twitter Cards to Jekyll and how it can be used to optimise the sharing of your blog posts. If you have any questions, then ask in the comments section below. Why not follow me on Twitter and Facebook?

5 ways to motivate yourself

5 ways to motivate yourself

Many of us lacks the determination to achieve our goals or finish our plans with single-mindedness due to the lack of motivation or drive, while some of us are scatterbrained with a bunch of ideas, but are unable to set the goals. Chances are you're one of those people, or perhaps you want to further increase your fluctuated motivation level.

Understanding yourself is the first step towards the self-improvement. The knowledge you gain from the others can help you understand about yourself and your weakness, and how to use your strength to overcome your weakness. For whatever reasons you are suffering from low motivation, following the 5 ways presented below might help you in boosting your motivation level:

1) Create a list of reasons for your goals

When you have a goal, then there is a high probably that you have reasons behind it. Write the every reason you know that you need to achieve your goals, i.e., what will you achieve with your goals, what motivated you to achieve your goals in the first place, etc. When you feel less motivation or get the negative thoughts, read the list again and again. You must convert your negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones in order to have a clear picture of what the future will look like once you accomplish your goals. Research shows that positive reaffirmation helps programming your mind for the better outcome. You can even create notes about yourself to understand when your motivation sucks to see the pattern.

3) Break your goal into baby steps

You get a burst of ideas to achieve your goal, but you are not confident about it, because there are so many steps that come to your mind, then the old ideas get vanished and you get new ideas, this endless loop continues and you lose motivation. In order to efficiently achieve your goal, you must break it into baby steps and follow them thoroughly. Keep tracking the progress of your projects. If you keep a journal, then write the steps down and stick with them. Doing this way, you can even ask the help from other people to complete some of your steps, so that you can achieve your goals earlier than the predicted time.

3) Prepare ahead for the bad feelings

You must make the realistic expectations and set the logical steps for your goals. You must see the possibilities from every perspective before setting your goals. If you don't prepare for the odds or the bad feelings, then you will become self-absorbed, self-hating, and thus lose the motivation to achieve your goals. You must understand that the lack of motivation you feel now won't last long unless you make yourself immersed in the feelings. You must learn to replace procrastination with the willpower in order to complete the project with determination. If you are feeling anxiety, then do not worry, as it can fuel your determination.

4) Listen to the motivational music

Listening to up-beat and loud music can really boost your motivational level. In particular, people with high musical intelligence tends to be inspired and motivated after they listen to their favorite music. Music can also help you in stabilizing your mood. Always listen to the music with optimistic lyrics if you want to reduce the pessimism and cynicism in your life.

5) Do the things your own way

If the traditional approach towards improving your motivation doesn't work, then you shouldn't worry about it, as not every person is the same. The best you can do is to study yourself, and try to analyze the situation when you get the motivation. Try to recreate that feeling to get motivation when needed. Perhaps, you might have an ADD? In that case, the pshyicatrist can help you overcome your lack of focus.

Final Thoughts

Whatever road you take towards increasing your motivation, remember the life is too short for the procrastination. If you can overcome your procrastination when you must focus on your goal, then you've won the great war of the human misery. Procrastination has the capability to kill your dreams; do not let it control you!

Neuroticism with Conscientiousness

Neuroticism with Conscientiousness

Neuroticism is the constant feeling of worry, self-consciousness and perfectionism. Neurotic people are moody, irritable and very anxious. In the society, highly neurotic people have been considered less likely to succeed than the healthy ones because of their attitude to take anxiety at every difficult stage in their life. The American Psychologist article says, "Indeed, it predicts shorter, less happy, less healthy, and less successful lives to a meaningful extent,". Neuroticism can increase the risk of mental conditions and physical health problems. However, recent studies show that high neuroticism can actually lead to success and good health if the person is driven by high conscientious.

According to a University of Rochester Medical Center study, some self-described neurotics also tended to have the lowest levels of Interleukin 6 (IL-6), a biomarker for inflammation and chronic disease. Those neurotics are apparently the ones with high levels of conscientious.

Conscientious people tend to be organized, good planners, follow a routine, do the job thoroughly, and are strong-willed. Both Neuroticism and Conscientious are considered the part of Big Five personality traits, along with extraversion, agreeableness and openness to experience. People with the combination of these traits are considered healthy neurotic.

If a person is highly neurotic, but lacks conscientious, then his worry and anxiety will leave him nowhere and he will do excessive drinking and smoking to cope with it, thus creating the vicious circle. But, if the person has a high degree of conscientious, then his anxiety will provide him the motivation and drive to achieve things. He can do anything he set his mind to. He has the following characteristics that set them apart from other neurotics:

Higher Self Awareness

These individuals are highly aware of themselves. They know exactly about their flaws and weakness, and they are not afraid to admit their mistakes, although they greatly fear to make mistakes in the first place. They can be self-denying. Their self-awareness AND the will to do the right thing can make them great achievers.

Higher drive and will power

Many people lack drive to achieve their goals. Conscientious people set their goals efficiently to finish their plans. The anxiety and perfectionism arise from neuroticism forces them to achieve those goals. However, overdriven people can end up burning them out.

Misery leads to better plans

Conscientious people are planners. They do not leave any room for the improvement. When the anxiety makes them depressed, then they make a few changes in plan to see what exactly caused the anxiety. Any misery in their life will result in the improvement of their plans, and they aren't afraid to back down while distressed for their own health.

Tendency to finish the job

These individuals are usually high achievers because they always feel that there is something that needs to be done. They can't get rest unless their job is in the progress. Their perfectionism leads them to do extraordinary things that others can only imagine. They are always willing to improve the existing things.

Artistic bend

As neurotics are highly self-aware, they can have great inner artistic qualities. They are good at self-expression and they have plenty of ideas in their heads. When these qualities combined with the power of conscientiousness then the person ends up creating the outstanding art. They don't only think, but act on it as well because they fear that their anxiety will kick in if they don't translate their ideas into reality.

Improving the Conscientiousness

It is very possible to increase the conscientiousness in yourself. It seems that less organized people tend to become more organized as they get older and mature. They may also be forced by their peers to become more organized and responsible. You can do a few things to increase your conscientiousness:

  • Acknowledge your lack of responsibility
  • Start planning your schedules
  • Stick to the plan
  • Force yourself to meet the deadlines
  • Never give up

Final Thoughts

If you can relate to the traits provided in this post, then you are an healthy neurotic. If that's the case: You shouldn't let anyone tell you that you aren't beautiful just because the society consider you "different". You can have a good amount of conscientious in you that will force you to do things the right way and "fix" the problems within yourself.