Intense Realism: Seeing Things for What They Are

The following is an excerpt from The 50th Law, adapted for HuffPost.

Reality can be rather harsh. Your days are numbered. It takes constant effort to carve a place for yourself in this ruthlessly competitive world and hold on to it. People can be treacherous. They bring endless battles into your life. Your task is to resist the temptation to wish it were all different; instead you must fearlessly accept these circumstances, even embrace them. By focusing your attention on what is going on around you, you will gain a sharp appreciation for what makes some people advance and others fall behind. By seeing through people's manipulations, you can turn them around. The firmer your grasp on reality, the more power you will have to alter it for your purposes.

You might imagine that life is not really that tough or dangerous. You might think that you have all the time in the world and solid allies to rely upon, but all of this is merely a symptom of your dreaming, of how deeply you are infected with fantasies and how afraid you are to face reality. The world has become as grimy and dangerous as the streets of Southside Queens -- a global, competitive environment in which everyone is a ruthless hustler, out for him- or herself.

The greatest danger you face is your mind growing soft and your eye getting dull. When things get tough and you grow tired of the grind, your mind tends to drift into fantasies; you wish things were a certain way and slowly, subtly, you turn inward to your thoughts and desires. If things are going well, you become complacent, imagining that what you have now will continue forever. You stop paying attention. Before you know it, you end up overwhelmed by the changes going on and the younger people rising up around you, challenging your position.

Reality has its own power -- you can turn your back on it, but it will find you in the end, and your inability to cope with it will be your ruin. Now is the time to stop drifting and wake up -- to assess yourself, the people around you and the direction you are headed in as cold and brutal a light as possible. Without fear.

Think of reality in the following terms: the people around you are generally mysterious. You are never quite sure about their intentions. Some can present an appearance that is often deceptive -- their manipulative actions not matching their lofty words or promises. All of this can prove confusing. Seeing people as they are, instead of what you think they should be, would mean having a greater sense of their motives. It would mean being able to pierce the appearances they present to the world and see their true character. Your actions in life would be so much more effective with this knowledge.

Your line of work is another layer of reality. Right now, things might seem calm on the surface, but there are changes rippling through that world; dangers are looming on the horizon. Soon your assumptions about how things are done will be outdated. These changes and problems are not immediately apparent. Being able to see through to them before they become too large would bring you great power.

The capacity to see the reality behind the appearance is not a function of education or cleverness. People can be full of book knowledge and crammed with information but have no real sense of what's going on around them. It is in fact a function of character and fearlessness. Simply put, realists are not afraid to look at the harsh circumstances of life. They sharpen their eye by paying keen attention to details, to people's intentions, to the dark realities hiding behind any glamorous surface. Like any muscle that is trained, they develop the capacity to see with more intensity.

It is simply a choice you have to make. At any moment in life you can convert to realism, which is not a belief system at all, but a way of looking at the world. It means every circumstance, every individual is different, and your task is to measure that difference, then take appropriate action. Your eyes are fixed on the world, not on yourself or your ego. What you see determines what you think and how you act. The moment you believe in some cherished idea that you will hold on to no matter what your eyes and ears reveal to you, you are no longer a realist.