TED Talk Tuesday: Graham Hill says “Less stuff, more happiness”



Graham Hill gives one of the best TED talks I’ve seen. We have three times as much living space as 50 years ago. But happiness has flatlined since then. Why? Because more stuff doesn’t make you more happy. The right stuff does.

It’s all about turning our paradigm on its head. I’ve been there. I’m in the store, and that ‘As Seen on TV’ car window scrubber looks really useful. So I grab it. And I do use it. Maybe a handful of times. But then I think about how a simple towel would have worked just as well.

“We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?” By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just.. stuff.”

Less stuff means more freedom, means more time. When I go camping, somehow my worries are reduced, which relates to having everything I own for that trip in a backpack. My day is wide open and free. (Seeing a sunset over the Appalachian mountains helps prioritize things too, of course.)

“We’ve got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn’t worn in years? It’s time for me to let it go. We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow.”

What stuff do you think you could let go of in your life?

What stuff truly makes you happy?

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The sound of inevitable death

Agent Smith was right. Death is inevitable.

Neo lived here, but he did later die. I am going to die. You are, too. We’re all going to die. We all will cease to exist one day. It is inevitable. All the bad stuff that happens to us will pass. The good stuff, too. Focusing on any of that while death looms is silly when you think about it. We win the lottery everyday when we wake up in the morning with the ability to perceive our surroundings and make conscious choices about what we want or where we want to go.

I remember feeling like Neo not long ago, when I woke up from my Matrix. I had been following a life that others had constructed. I had values, but they were borrowed. I had causes, but I was only using them to bring meaning to my life. And so awake, I was able to see I was far from the person I wanted to be. I was pretty disgusted when I’d finally lifted the covers I’d thrown over the sordid mess that was my personality. All I did was judge myself and other people. I was such a pessimist I don’t know how anyone wanted to be around me. Listening to your internal dialogue is so powerful, but it can be depressing!

So this was hard. But it’s been even harder to accept myself. Actually, I might never fully accept myself, but that is a goal of perfection: Realizing we are imperfect and not worrying about it.

A great way of pushing thru realized imperfection is pressure

Back to Neo. He was facing some pressures in the real world. He’d just taken the red pill, instead of the blue pill, and woken up from a virtual reality world of a comfortable life. He finds himself in the sewers of a city, being chased by robots. Just as Cypher, one of the other human refugees from the Matrix told him: “I know what you’re thinking. Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

Cypher wanted to escape the real world and go back to the Matrix. I think we all feel that way sometimes. We want to hide behind a fierce attitude, the pride in our career, the pleasure in a partner or our children, or a respectable cause to fight for. Instead of facing reality, we find it easier to escape it, placing importance on things or gaining value from other people when that value should originate in ourselves.

I think the pressure to survive helped Neo. This is a pressure we don’t have. Consequently, we can get distracted, or we can become so focused on doing the right thing, we become overwhelmed by the task. I’ve awakened from the distractions, but I’m still overwhelmed sometimes.

Whether we’re distracted or overwhelmed, we need to keep the inevitability of death in our heads. This will bring about the gratitude and the focus on the here and now, and once we’re focused, we’re not worried about needing anything from anyone. We start controlling our lives, instead of letting others do it for us. We are better able to make ourselves happy.

The sound of inevitability: It’s good to hear that sound to put things in perspective.

TED Talk Tuesday: Paul says it’s time to start being fearful



Fear is not bad. Although as the foundation for your actions -the conservative hand that holds you back from trying- it is certainly a bad thing. But fear is helpful. A useful servant, but a terrible master. Good fear results from being aware of our worsening conditions. It comes from being able to judge clearly.

Paul Gilding helps us clarify the situation that the world’s rate of consumption is unsustainable. And it’s time to start being fearful. As he puts it, it’s time to end the denial:

“We tend to look at the world, not as the integrated system that it is, but as a series of individual issues. We see the Occupy protests, we see spiraling debt crises, we see growing inequality, we see money’s influence on politics, we see resource constraint, food and oil prices. But we see, mistakenly, each of these issues as individual problems to be solved. In fact, it’s the system in the painful process of breaking down — our system, of debt-fueled economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet Earth, is eating itself alive.”
He suggests fear, but fear is not enough.

Empowerment is necessary, too. It’s time to start empowering people to know what they’re doing. What we’re doing when we go shopping, when we choose what to eat, where to work, who to bank with, and what media to view. It’s time to enable ourselves.

Spread the confidence to unplug from our current lifestyle -energy use, meat consumption, sprawling residences- and find better ways to do things. I don’t even see this as a sacrifice, because what we seek is not really at the end of a checkout line, or sitting in a nice car and nice clothes, or eating a steak. What we want is a connection with other people.

It’s time to be fearful. And then time to re-evaluate what we’re doing in our search for happiness. We may not only be missing that mark, but taking down our society and planet as well.

“It takes a good crisis to get us going. When we feel fear and we fear loss we are capable of quite extraordinary things.”

It’s time to be extraordinary.

TED Talk Tuesday: Larry Smith tells us why we dream and not do

Larry Smith is going to tell you how to live your dream, not your interests. He’s going to tell you how to propose to a girl. He’ll tell you how to have children. All this in 15 minutes? You bet. The answer, like most things in life, is so simple once we get past the excuses. Buckle up, my friends, because Larry is going to tell it to you like it is. And, honestly, I know what he means. Because I’m living it.

TED Talk Tuesday: Why Rush Limbaugh’s opinion is what we’re talking about



Susan Cain has made a significant realization: Group think is taking over smart think. Culture is promoting group discussion over your own. Our culture encourages collaboration and working in groups, starting from the classroom, and then to the open cubicles of corporate America. The problem is, our ability to think independently is being hurt as a result.

Susan calls for allowing people some introversion, or should I say, introspection? Some of our deepest thinking comes from alone time. In fact, everyone’s opinion comes from their own unique perspective. At least, it should. It shouldn’t come from some authority figure, whether it is a talking head on the entertainment/news shows, President Obama, or your parents. Even us extroverts need this time by ourselves, maybe even more so. Today information is flying at the speed of light, and before you know it, mob mentality and the cult of personality has influenced your decision.

Susan’s message is timely, in a society where we’re inundated with info, and that info is either what other people are doing, or it’s news that is colored by bias and our limited attention span. It’s hard not to pick up another person’s convincing argument as our own.

What’s more dangerous is when we believe that the stuff that’s reported is the real issue. But what may be the worst is when we throw up our hands in helplessness, because we think no one else realizes that the emperor has no clothes.

Is Rush Limbaugh’s opinion what we should be talking about?

Think about what’s right and wrong in government. Then ask whether you want to talk about Rush and the two political parties’ agendas, or if you want to talk about electing people who will help us become responsible consumers, mindful investors, and powerful citizens again.

Remove the money gag

How would you rate the following in importance?

-Tax breaks for gay and straight married couples
-Wall Street banks paying fines a fraction of the $30 trillion the government loaned them to keep their collapse from taking down our economy.
-Government money to cover contraception

What do we need to focus on? All of these involve controlling money. Is that the problem?

The money isn’t the problem. It’s how the government is engineering the country as if money is our only motivator.

Good leaders trust the human spirit, not carrots and sticks

Good leaders don’t use regulations and incentives. But our leaders are doing so today. They’re trying to regulate Wall St bankers to prevent their recklessness from hurting us again in the future. But regulations restrict us and push us to find a way around them. That is why three times since 1990, the banks have almost collapsed and why the government bailed them out each time. If you knew you were going to get your money back, would you be more or less careless when spending it?

And incentives? Incentives bribe us. Research shows that when you start giving rewards, people are pretty predictable. They stop doing for the sake of doing, and shift to doing for the reward. When you start going to work so that you can get money to buy stuff, the stuff becomes the reward and the job becomes less of a choice.

We’re not animals. But if you use carrots and sticks on us, we will tune our motivations to that type of environment

How can these two things be the foundation of leadership, of government, of a community?

They can’t.

Are there any leaders today that inspire you? Most leaders of today aren’t going to be the people in government. Those who seek power in a system that has been compromised have compromised themselves. Granted, they may change some things. They may nibble at the fringes. But that cancer still grows inside.

Despite what media and culture tells us, leaders aren’t special. They aren’t chosen by divine providence or fate. They don’t have abilities different than you and me. Do you empower others? Ask people what they think? Do you encourage people? Then you’re probably a leader, or you can become one now that you see what it takes.

Leaders make things happen, yes. But:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

This Taoist quote tells us it’s about us doing something. It’s always been about us. And I think we can do this. It’s going to require us to remove the gag of money that has both silenced and motivated us. It’s going to require looking past the “I want to get mine if they’re getting theirs”. It’s going to require stopping the consumer train, and looking at what we’re feeding the engine. It’s going to require putting our heads together and not letting party or social class or emotions divide us and distract us from doing the right thing.

Let’s kill the noise and start listening to reality

Elections are where we can flex our muscle. But we’ve got to do our homework before then. Listen to what’s being reported. Do you think it’s important? We’ve got to talk to people and not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they do. Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy, and neither are you. Politics isn’t personal. It’s what a community depends on for its survival! And if we think one party or one person can fix this country, we’ve missed the point. This country is here because people had the courage of their convictions to join together and risk everything for what they believed in.

I think we can step up and be leaders again.