Archive for the ‘community’ Tag
I was in the gym the other day and there were weights all over the place, but they weren’t on any racks. Some dumbells were strewn on the floor and the barbells were left on the bars. I arranged the weights that I needed, racking some to make room for the weight I wanted, and I did my exercises. When I was done, I started to put the weights back, but I hesitated, thinking, “Why should I? No one else did.” Then I thought of Erik.
Erik is one of my most interesting friends. He is a writer, which might explain why he was so interesting. He likes Goth clubs, but he always seemed to be an outsider, like he was researching a book he was writing. He dresses their way, he likes the same music, and he is highly tolerant of their unique lifestyle. But Erik isn’t angry at anyone. In fact, he likes everyone. His smile literally beams as shiny as his shaved head and black combat boots. I like Erik because he simply does his thing, with adventurous heart and a thinking mind. I visited him soon after he had moved to Las Vegas and we found ourselves in his gym.
We did bench press and the weights were not racked. We arranged the weight for ourselves and did our sets, taking turns until I finished the last set. Erik started putting the weights away, and I said, “Erik, let’s leave them. Other people didn’t put their weights away.” Erik didn’t look up as he continued pulling off barbells, “Yea, but we do.”
I thought about this a few days ago, although I’d shrugged it off at the time and helped him begrudgingly. I thought about how easy it is to pass up doing the right thing. Our actions are lost in anonymity… all of us shop at the big superstores which use greeters now as they try to replicate the feeling of the mom and pop shops that they (and us) are putting out of business. We buy things made in the China because it would require serious effort to go without that item or find an alternative to it that was made here. It’s easy to keep our money and retirement accounts with the Wall St banks after they defrauded people, because everyone else is. What difference does it make when there are so many people out there doing the same thing?
The difference is because it’s wrong.
So I returned my weights to the rack. No biggie, I know. And I’m only one person. But I’m part of a larger environment, and if I don’t think about that, and more importantly, if I don’t do something about it, then I am part of the problem. Other people may not do anything, but Erik’s words are still strong in my head:
“Yea, but we do.”
Dan Buettner travelled the globe and found societies where many people are living over 100 years. And these centenarians are not sitting at home or in retirement villages, or using advanced health care to get them there. The video Buettner brings back is surprising, and his advice may surprise you even more. Longevity in these regions is not only based on diet and physical fitness. It’s based on our relationships.
The commonalities between the societies include what you’d expect: A plant-based diet with little to no meat. It includes not eating to fullness, and an active lifestyle. In addition, Buettner finds another similarity: These people are self-sufficient. They walk or ride bikes to where they need to be. They are spiritual: They all have a sense of purpose. They respect their elders and put family first. The children take care of their parents when they reach old age. And they interact with the community.
Buettner puts together a compelling picture based on some real life information. The simple fact is, longer life means doing something of value and being valued. And really, this sense of purpose is something we all know. We just…got a little distracted.
“…when you think about it, your friends are long-term adventures, and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years.”
Alain de Botton says religion is a system that works. It knows human nature. So let’s not throw away the template just because the content is questionable. He wants us to use the religious method.
Religion treats us like children. And it is well to. We need to be life-long learners, but we cannot wait on chance occurrences to teach us the important stuff. Botton describes the value of the religious system of education, from the sermons to repeated practice, which the secular world has left to the individual.
Even our higher institutions expect the newly minted adult walking onto their campuses to know what it’s all about. After graduation, the corporation is ready to provide us the structure for our lives, and the branding and clarity.
“…except they’re right down at the bottom of the pyramid of needs. They’re selling us shoes and cars. Whereas the people who are selling us the higher stuff — the therapists, the poets — are on their own and they have no power, they have no might.”
Life is about growth and discovery, and we need to get into our groups and start communicating our ideas in a more organized way. The secular world has fled so far from religion, it’s forgotten that we need to congregate. We need sermons. We need to communicate ideas.
“My concluding point is that you may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone. They’re for all of us.”
Tell it, brother!
I remember I met Patrick at the Ravari Room. I would go there most every Wednesday, to watch Tony and his jazz trio bang out tunes. After that night, I ended up hanging out with Patrick regularly, but ironically, it was only after he stopped returning my phone calls that I realized who he was. He was a teacher who taught me how to truly value people.
It’s not just what people do for you, but why they do it that makes them your friend
I was lost when I met Patrick. I needed to accept myself and construct my own value system for life. I was selfish and I would use people without appreciating what they had done for me. And I survived off of their attention. Little did I know that Patrick was the teacher that I needed, if only I had been ready to change.
One day I told Patrick that I had given some money to a friend at work who was in need, but I hadn’t realized that I was close to not being able to make my bills for the month. I didn’t want anything from him, I hadn’t even thought about it, but Patrick promptly said, “Let me know, I can help you out if you need it.”
When Patrick’s friend Chris moved into his house, Patrick said it was a little aggravating to always see him at home. I said, “But it’s nice to have that help with the house payment.” Patrick replied, “He’s not giving me anything. Not yet.”
Patrick moves to the ghetto and gets robbed
Within 6 months of moving into a low-income neighborhood, Patrick’s bike was stolen out of his garage and then his HDTV from his living room. Both were stolen because he had not locked his place. It may be naive, but the pureness of his attitude is inspiring because it assures me that he wasn’t a person that needed other people’s sacrifice or trust. He had a confidence in humanity.
It may seem that he sacrificed something, but what did he really lose? Things. Things which he certainly valued, but didn’t derive happiness from. And just as important, what did he retain? His courage, which serves as an example to others.
Patrick didnt compromise his values for money. He treated me like an adult. He helped me when he saw I really needed it, offered money, connected me to his company to apply for a job, among numerous favors.
After a couple of years, I guess he decided he had given me enough chances to develop confidence in myself and become self-sustaining. I regret that my change in attitude did not come sooner, but I’ll always remember his simple, honest, positive approach to life. I hope to live by the example he unconsciously set for me and everyone in his life.
Patrick knew everyone should be given a chance, because humanity is lost if we don’t try to provide an environment that promotes encouragement, trust, and love.
I’m glad he took some time to trust in me.
Rituals. We follow them without thinking. Some rituals are habits that we consciously try to form, like healthy exercise and diet. Other rituals are generally environmentally influenced… like going to church, going out to eat, or putting up a Christmas tree.
This past weekend, I went out to run, not having exercised the week before. My ritual is to run about six miles over a certain route that takes me through a subdivision and down a main street. I considered shortening the run, given my week-long inactivity, but I didn’t. I also thought about slowing from my usual pace. I didn’t follow that advice either. At the end of my run, I noticed a stabbing pain in my left Achilles tendon. I had injured myself, and it was all because I was accustomed to my ritual, and I didn’t want to change it.
We can form seemingly good habits, like regular exercise or a healthy diet. Some dietary habits are so ingrained in our minds that going against them seems like going against nature, like the practice of eating meat. As we have become more technologically advanced, we don’t need to slaughter our own animals or go to a farm, so we don’t see meat as coming from a living and breathing animal that can suffer and who raises its young, unless we take them away for veal or lamb chops. We don’t see that we have put these living things in factories where they aren’t animals anymore, but units of production on an assembly line. Input: corn, antibiotics, and hormones. Output: meat patty on our plate.
As human beings, we have the capacity to think through our actions and make a plan. Our mindfulness is our most important quality, otherwise, we are at the mercy of our environment and the whims of a culture that allows slavery to exist, restricts people from voting, and allows banks to defraud their customers, almost causing world-wide economic collapse. If we can recognize when a ritual is good or bad, we can make an exception and not blindly follow it.
So stop every once in a while and assess your habits and judge whether they are making you happy. You will probably find something you can change that will drastically improve your life and the state of the world you live in.
I am going to come clean: I’ve fallen off the wagon. The days have been getting away from me, and I haven’t accomplished what I wanted. Days have become weeks, and weeks have become a month, and thus my time has slipped away. Have you ever been there? Here are the three steps to help get back on track:
1. Accept yourself
2. Determine your paradigm
3. Set longterm goals, then set smaller goals that lead to them
Accepting yourself is not enough
After a long time, I’ve come to accept myself. I mentioned accepting myself briefly in a previous blog. Yesterday I mentioned it to someone and they asked what I meant. Accepting myself doesn’t mean that I say I am ok with the way I am, and that I don’t need to change.
Accepting myself is understanding that I am responsible for myself and my happiness
Acceptance is knowing that your environment doesn’t make you happy or sad. Your environment includes the people around you, your physical surroundings, your accomplishments or failures and even your physical appearance. In this mindset, you don’t react to your environment, you act on it.
After acceptance, you can then take action
Acceptance is not enough to be happy. We must do. But doing takes effort. It takes discipline. If you find yourself lacking the drive and you’ve had a long period of inaction, reassess your goals. So I’m back at the drawing board, reviewing my goals: Get two books published by the end of next year. For you, it might be get a certification to help your career along, hiking the Appalachian trial, or restoring an old car. Whatever it is, you need to realize it fully. Finding your goals is more than listing specific accomplishments. Your true goals are based on something much deeper..your purpose. Your passion.
Purpose is your fundamental goal
To find your purpose, you need to find the lens through which you see the world. You need to define your paradigm. In general, this is the same for everyone: Do something of value and be valued. Remind yourself of this to help keep you on track. Consider the alternative: Doing nothing of much value. That’s not a scenario I want to face. Do you?
Having no short-term goals is like bowling without seeing the pins
For me, small goals involve building content. Writing a chapter a day, writing a synopsis of every day, and a blog article every week. These tasks keep me on track to my longterm goal of publishing two books and writing for magazines and periodicals. Revisit your longterm goals to ensure you’re doing what you want, and to motivate you towards those accomplishments. If you find you are unable to meet your short term goals, break them down to even smaller, shorter-term goals: Yearly into monthly, monthly into weekly, weekly into daily.
Don’t get discouraged
Remember: Those accomplishments don’t make or break you. You are in control of yourself, so accept your responsibility. Be aware of yourself. Only you know if you are making a true effort at living your paradigm. Organize your goals so that your behavior matches your passion.
So I’m back on track. I trust that I’ll see you in action soon enough, too.
I went to a fitness expo and was walking by the vendor booths, where they were giving away samples of supplements and magazines. I was walking around the side of the area, past an unmarked table that was stacked with packages of sports drinks. I saw a person reach in a package and take a bottle. Soon there was another person, and then another, and then a whole crowd of people started taking bottles. A few people even grabbed a whole package! Soon, a sale representative of the company selling the product noticed and came over to stop it.
I wanted to steal a bottle or two after I saw that there were so many people who were involved. I thought that it wasn’t really wrong since the company was planning on giving it away. I don’t feel good about my inaction, because I should have said something to prevent others from stealing. And then I thought of my banking.
What does stealing sports drinks have to do with your bank?
The name of the bank is Goldman Sachs, and it made some really bad investments worth $1.2 billion. To try to save itself, it sold the investments to its customers and then made a $2 billion bet that the investments would crash. It didn’t tell its customers it bet against the investment. And then the investments did, in fact, crash. The federal government fined Goldman Sachs $550 million for fraud, and then gave it about $13 billion to keep it and its customers from going bankrupt.
As an individual, you have little power, but together, we can make a moral society
Would it have made a difference if I had said something while people were stealing the sports drinks? Possibly. There may have been too many people for my voice to have made a difference. Individual action has little power. But when that one person who speaks out becomes two people, and two becomes four, and four becomes thousands, then our actions become quite influential. Because other people continue to use Goldman Sachs as their investment bank does not make it right. Neither does our government allowing the bank to continue doing business. Tell three of your friends about what Goldman Sachs did to its customers and let’s ask ourselves whether we want to support a dishonest business.
I know we will make the right choice.
For details on the Goldman Sachs fraud, please go to the Rolling Stone article
Tomorrow is Monday, the head of the work week but the weekend is recess time. This is my life, like it is for most of you, but this blog is about jumping off the swing between play and work.
I was sitting by the pool one weekend, reading The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau. The book is one of the main drivers that has empowered me to let go of the swing. I recommend setting aside a snippet of your day for one week to have Chris realign your perception of work and life. As I lay on my lounge chair reading, I noticed two young girls jumping into the pool. I saw one climb up on a molded plastic chair. The chair wobbled and tipped slightly as she jumped into the water. I watched the other girl start climbing up on the chair. I spoke forcefully across the pool, “You guys, that is bad idea.” They both immediately stopped what they were doing. One of them quietly said, “Ok.”
There was a couple close-by to me and the guy said, “Good going, man.”
I replied, “I couldn’t help saying something. It would ruin my day to see someone wreck themselves right in front of me.”
And the two girls were right in front of us all. It was a small pool, with at least five other people besides me sitting around it. Why hadn’t anyone said anything?
During the week, we gather into groups, in our offices, managed by others and by our schedules. We know our responsibility there. When we are not working, we are back on the playground, but without our teacher. Whose job is it to supervise? We supervise ourselves. We decide when something is right or wrong and it is our responsibility to speak up.
I felt good after preventing the girls from having an accident. But I felt strange that I had hesitated because of the acceptance of the others. I think everyone has the same sense of right and wrong. We just need to be reminded that we can express it, and take responsibility for something outside of our work description. We should not be afraid to speak out even though no one else will.
Our existence as human beings depends on it.