“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”

manwithblinders cartoon

Nick eats eight meals a day. He has little containers of food that he brings to work. He goes to Sam’s Club to buy the big bags of broccoli and diapers.

Kevin takes long bike rides with a group. They stop at a buffet after their rides.

Rick has 2 dogs which he misses every day when he comes to work.

So my story is… these people. Their stories become part of my story. The story of our lives is the background in our lives. The stuff that gets blurred out as we acclimate to the noise or don’t bother to ask.

As we get more focused on getting from point A to point B…apartment to house, house to bigger house, less pay to more pay, this partner to that partner, single to married, searching for the cool place to go and hang…we miss all the infinite points between. Those points are the people, places, and opportunities. They form the canvas of our life. When they’re connected, they become our life drawing.

That’s why when our actions are made without context, without others, without a why, without looking around first, then those actions become indefinite, their borders hazy, and after years of this, our life ceases to be meaningful.

The aim is not make a straight line. The point is not to hit each point, each milestone, checking the box, then seeking the next one. The point is to expand over our canvas, not stay isolated in our office, career, home, or family. The intent is to learn, and absorption doesn’t work unless you’re listening and putting yourself out there.

We do need goals. But what are the goals? Career, personal life, family life…how much effort to spend in each bucket? The tangibles can be met fairly easily, especially here in the US, but what happens when you realize that you’ve lost years of experience, potential friends, lovers, and new places, because your goals became your life, and living the moments fell off the list?

“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”
– Geoffrey Wolff

Choose carefully, but just make sure you choose. The tangibles are easy to measure. The intangibles are not. Thing is, we’re here for the intangibles.

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Why avoiding heaven should be at the top of your 2013 to-do list

Choices

Heaven is perfect. Everything to be understood is already understood. Any choices we make don’t change our happiness. We’re perfect. We have nothing to strive for. There is nothing more to know. A constant state stretching into infinity.

Heaven, perhaps not coincidentally, sounds like death.

Your actions are insignificant since everything will turn out as it should. During death, you become disordered into the system. But in heaven, everything is ordered. And since there is no disorder to shy from, the order is meaningless. And if there are any changes in heaven, they become meaningless, too.

This is why we must make choices with positive or negative consequences.

To have significance, our existence must include taking risks. There must be a negative outcome to suffer, so that there is a positive state for us to value. We must have a little suffering, a little wanting, a little desire, to make life worth living, actions worth taking, love worth making, and friendships worth building, because…

No desire means no love

The argument for a heavenly state is that we need to be content…we need to have gratitude with what IS before looking to what more can be. Desire leads only to more desire, unless checked by gratitude. Gratitude gives us peace. It keeps us grounded. It allows acceptance of what is, so our identity does not become wrapped up in what we do. Our selves always come before our job, or home, or looks, or our friends. If those things are stripped away, our gratitude for our humanity, for just having the dumb luck to be born, to exist, this profound truth will sustain us.

Gratitude allows us to value life. And valuing life itself gives us the reasoning for how we will use this life. Why we do something is as important as what we do.

But a heavenly gratitude without the passion to act is a divine lobotomy, stretching timelessly into oblivion

Human nature ties us all together. After we recognize that we all grow angry, fearful, happy, anxious, peaceful, lustful, needy… then we…then we can decide how to act. Will I be driven by my insecurity? Or by purpose and confidence and love?

As much as our natures are alike, our behavior differentiates us. Yes, we are all special, but only because of our behavior.

Our behavior makes us who we are

Our behaviors are based on our decisions, and we decide based on costs. Costs of how much we want to suffer, how much we want to risk losing something for what we love…Do we shoot for the love…or not?

Heaven is perfect. But that just isn’t good enough

So, don’t lose that desire. Carry heaven in your mind, but realize there’s more to you than the passive contentment behind those pearly gates.

To a new year of risk. To days that end with a resounding “hell yes!” or with a little fear because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And ultimately…doing what you love.

Cheers to 2013, friends.

Your strength is needed. Now…more than ever.

Some people think they know better than others. You know the type. They give advice on everything. They believe they have the system of do’s and don’ts that will work. They want what is best for you. And they believe they know what the best thing for you to do is. In fact, they think they know what is best for everyone.

Others believe it’s better for people to make their own choice. They believe people will strive, work, share, and care for others. Not because we’re forced to, but because in a stable system of laws, that is what we will do. They believe people should have the freedom to live how they want, but without hurting others. To choose what passion to follow, where to work, how much to pay, how much to get paid, what to buy, how to explore their own consciousness, and who to congregate with.

There are those who want a system of control because they want to protect people, not just from others, but protect them from making the wrong choices. They want to protect us from ourselves. They are cautious of people. Do they even trust people?

They like giving guidelines, and providing a program. They believe in a high standard of living, and they want everyone to have that standard, not just the opportunity for that standard, because they think everyone deserves it. And they will engineer a system using their formula of mandates that will get you this, regardless of how this effects the financial condition of the country. They will make it too affordable to pass up or they will cook it into the system so you have no choice.

These people truly want to help others.

And they believe they are the expert authority on that. And they believe in a central authority. Like a central bank that controls money, or a central insurance company that controls health care, or a central department of energy and agriculture to provide corporate welfare. Or a police authority that has taken our right to trial, so we can be arrested without charge.

Those who believe in people are different. They are courageous, because living an empowered life is damn scary. But that is why we are here. Not to make a perfect world, but to accept that life is not going to be perfect, and anything that is worth doing in life is risky. And caring about someone else is not about giving them something. It’s about being their friend and helping them face to face, not through a check delivered by a service taken from our paycheck.

We’re here to make choices, not have someone else make them for us.

We’re here to get hurt, mend, learn, and grow. And when we see someone else hurting, we’re here to extend our own hand and help them up. Not pay others to help them for us. Because people need to intimately know they are valued before they can do something of value. And because you cannot make someone care about you by forcing them to share with you.

We’re here to explore our passions and our own consciousness without being restricted on what we can do, unless it hurts another person.

We know that we cannot get as far alone as we can by joining others, but not in faceless networks. We’re here to share life in a community, because we must have the opportunity to learn that without guidelines or incentives, a rich life is one of honest collaboration with others.

We know that if we give leaders the authority to do things on behalf of us, we must remain aware of how they are using this power. And that we must stop them when we feel they are doing a disservice to us.

We know that we should treat everyone else how we would want to be treated. And so we act accordingly.

These people trust humanity to do the right thing.

Some might call these libertarian values.

But they are not.

They are called human values.

And I believe it is how we should live.

TED Talk Tuesday: Surprising study shows living longer depends on your community

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.”

Don’t blow through the pleasantries.

“Hi there.”
“Hi”
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Almost perfect.”

It’s true that I’m almost perfect. Really.

I’m being more honest than when I say “ok” or “good”.
I’ve also heard people give the depressing “Not bad” and “Can’t complain”.

The “How are you”s are part of the exchange of pleasantries. They’re supposed to be pleasant, right? Then why do we blow through them with a catch phrase? And then we stall, searching for something more tangible to talk about, like the weather, which will save a conversation, yes, but it will also make you want to check your cell phone for more stimulating conversation with faceless people.

I realize that the so-called pleasantries breakdown the walls we have built up. They slowly bring the conversation to more meaningful levels, so that we’re more comfortable.

Why is that?

Sure, our genes may be coded with the fear response to strangers. Strangers who may be from another tribe who want to kill me for my food, shelter, or women, but why continue the drive-by pleasantries today, especially in this country, where survival is pretty easy? Even in low-income areas, no one is starving.

Ok, so keep the superficial pleasantries…what’s next?

When we get to the more meaningful part, we circle around asking the “how” and “why” question and get neck-deep in the comfortable quicksand of what we did, where we went, or what someone else is doing. We might get to some feelings, like “It sucked.’ Or “It was awesome.” But when was the last time we asked a probing “Why?” follow up?

We’re conditioned to make the “How are you?” the start of the conversation, and it’s ok to make it a greeting. Hey, it’s the best greeting I can think of..It jumps right into YOU. But instead of it being the start of the conversation, I think it should be the conversation. Let’s keep the courage of our convictions and see how someone else feels. Maybe give each other a new perspective?

The “how”s and the “why”s are the reason we’re here: It makes up the dialgoue that enables us to connect with people and grow.

I think a good start to connecting is to take that greeting seriously.

So…
How are YOU?

Patrick and I aren’t friends anymore

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.