Can we just let Dad drive?

Russell Brand


(2 min 30 seconds to read)

I used to laugh off the extremists. Those on the fringe left who discourage offensive language, encourage patience with repressive Islamists, and promote a US conspiracy as the cause for the Muslims fighting each other .

I used to laugh off the birthers who criticized everything Obama did, as if he was any less authoritarian than George W. Bush. I used to dismiss those who thought the country was going socialist, while they ignored the fact that we all have our social security cards and the government was subsidizing big industries, from agriculture to oil to our banking system.

Then I really laughed at those who reacted to these dramatists on the fringe. The reactionaries on twitter and youtube who amplified and contested every emotional outburst  from social justice warrior and libertarian alike, whether the post deserved attention or not.

The 24 hours news cycle that needed to be filled by CNN and FOX and other big media networks was no longer.  You and me, our posts, podcasts, and tweets, were filling it now, with our feelings saturating the digital space.

And so now I wonder who out there doesn’t have a camp. Is there anyone left who won’t outright dismiss a statement coming from “the other side”? Have we become so emotionally charged, so easily led, that we cannot be allowed to have meaningful influence of government?

I was most sympathetic to libertarianism, because I think that large institutions are prone to soul-crushing and domineering, whether the institution is governmental or corporate. I put more trust in people. I value people’s freedom, not the institution’s. I believed the best change, the most meaningful change, came from the bottom up, not the top down.

I wanted to empower the people. But not so much anymore.

I wonder if it’s better to accept the liberal elitism which favors disempowering the population, in order to keep us from hurting ourselves.

“Son, I know you’re 18 years old, but let me have the keys. I’ll drive you wherever you need. It’s easier and safer for everyone.”

Maybe we do need a paternal government which limits our options and controls our economy, our paychecks, and our lifestyles.

Because from what I see, so many of us are thinking with our heart, or from our gut, but we’re not thinking about issues with our minds.


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We can do better, if we choose the people who will do better by us.

plato


“States will never be happy until rulers become philosophers or philosophers become rulers.”

Why are we voting for leaders who are career politicians? Why are we voting for leaders who want to rule us, with their rules, instead of guide us, and empower us?

Actually, we’re not voting for leaders. We are voting for managers, accountants, and technicians. Let’s vote for leaders, instead. Leaders who want to inspire us to do better in our life, not give us a life where the best deal becomes the paternal controls of a corporate employer driven by profits, or putting our retirement money in irresponsible investment bank 401k’s.

We can do better, if we choose the people who will do better by us.

It’s always been up to us. Despite all the money in politics, the biggest factor still comes down to your vote.


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Meditating and then…cat attack!

boat in storm

I sat down to meditate and felt a whisper of a touch on the hand resting on my knee. It was the shy cat, I called her Demure Swat (about that name, I’ll tell you later). She had avoided me for days, until now, but now I was still and quiet, and she showed up. I think this is how many of the wants that escape you finally come around: When you’re still, focused, and controlling your energy from the bounding waves.

It seems then, that all you need to do is wait for what you desire. But I’m not talking about the Secret, where you visualize and think positive thoughts and hope for the best.  What I’m talking about is the discipline to stop and tune out everything else – the girlfriend, boyfriend (or the search for one!), the house that needs cleaned, facebook, and all those emails.

My meditation was the perfect way to attract a shy pet, but it’s not the way to create something, or learn to play soccer, cook a tasty meal, write a book, build a product and sell it…those things require work. However, all these things need discipline to stop running around and focus.

At a certain point, we must ignore the crashing waves of distraction, get our ass in the seat and start paddling our boat. That way, we’re controlling things, and not at the whims of everything else in the sea of life.

Evolution

stop following me

Let’s EVOLVE…beyond us and them, beyond teams, beyond party.. beyond religion, dogma and nationalism. Adopt abundance not scarcity mindsets. OPEN up…open lines of communication, don’t close them. Don’t assume. Ask, test, share priorities. The risk of murder, starvation, having your village raped and pillaged is practically gone. It’s time to leave the fear behind.

The secret to truly changing yourself

When I was in middle school, I noticed that I was smaller than most of the other kids. And I hated that. I hated my skinny arms and legs. So I started lifting weights. And eating… and taking supplements. I got bigger, but I always found fault. Even throughout college, I compared myself to other guys.

For years, I forced myself into this lifestyle until it became a habit… until one year. I stopped working out. I had met someone, the first person who showed care for me. We moved in together. I soon realized that I had never been training for me. Now, years later, I exercise for myself, for the good feelings I get. And I focus on getting fit, not big.

Changing something in your life means taking control. And where does that control come from? Your personality, values…your attitude, right?

So the first step in changing our actions is finding out what values are driving them. Is it because we’re unhappy with ourselves? Because no matter how much you “improve”, you will never become happy with yourself if you’re not already content with life.

Once you gain this self-awareness, then whatever changes you want to make aren’t hard, because…well…because you want them. When my goal changed from getting validation to being fit, it was almost unconscious. I didn’t obsess over becoming healthy. I didn’t hold myself to a strict program. I didn’t read books about why it was better to be more fit. I didn’t do those things because I didn’t need to do those things.

A measure of the value of a goal is how much you want to do the grunt work. But if the drive to change comes from inside you, you will embrace the grind and it will cease to be one. Facing the challenge of something new will become exciting, not paralyzing. The sacrifice won’t feel like a sacrifice.

But it won’t really work if you’re doing it because you think you must or you have no choice. You can’t do it if fear is driving you, or if you’re forced to.

People do change. We evolve. Just don’t force it. Evolution is natural. Other people and your environment can supplement a change in your values, but the truest values, the ones that drive us to do the right thing, always come from the inside.

So what’s the secret to really changing yourself?

Let go of what you think you need.

Free yourself. Because no one else will.

We were meant to evolve. And we have the self-awareness and freewill to do exactly that.

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.

TED Talk Tuesday – Gary says do what you love

A little entertainment for you this Tuesday, but it’s a funny and inspiring video by the most excitable guy I’ve seen in small business:

“Lets start with passion, there’s way too many people in this room right now that are doing stuff they hate. Please stop doing that. There is no reason in 2009 to do crap you hate. None. Promise me you won’t, because you can lose just as much money being happy as hell.”

His name is Gary Vaynerchuk. And he’s real:

“nine to five, I don’t have time. If you want this, if you’re miserable, or if you don’t like it or you want to do something else and you have a passion somewhere else. Work nine to five. Spend a couple hours with your family. Seven to two in the morning is plenty of time to do damage. But that’s it. It’s not going to happen any other way.”

Stay hungry, my friends.

The most difficult decision of my life

There are some actions that are not right, but context defines our decisions. Sometimes we must do the wrong thing at the right time. Me walking away from a medical degree, for instance. It was what needed to be done at the time, much to people’s disbelief. But I wasn’t living my life. My life was living me.

What is indisputable is that we’re here to do something worthwhile. And who is the one that’s going to tell you what that thing is?

Well, that’s going to be you. Not society. Not your parents. Not your neighbors, and not your partner.

The how and the why is answered by you, and you alone.

Your values are what make your actions your own.

The ant and the grasshopper

The ants worked and the grasshoppers played. The grasshoppers had a giant nest that was always stocked with food, so they spent their summers relaxing. They largely ignored the ants, but noticed that the ants would sometimes bring back shiny pebbles with their food. The grasshoppers offered the ants some of their food in exchange for the pebbles. The ants agreed. The grasshoppers grew to love the shiny pebbles, so the ants decided to collect more pebbles for the grasshoppers in exchange for their food. After a time, the grasshoppers’ nests were both finely decorated and stocked with food.

Years went by like this, but soon the grasshoppers’ food stock got dangerously low and they didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, a boy came, and curious about nature, decided to feed and observe the grasshoppers. The grasshoppers were happy again, and the ants continued with their work, gathering food and providing pebbles.
Years and years went by. The grasshoppers grew old, and so did the boy, and he started visiting less and less frequently. The grasshoppers didn’t mind at first, but soon their food was almost gone. They tried going out and finding food, but discovered they had forgotten how to hunt and scavenge. They went to the ants and asked for food, but the ants told them they didn’t need the grasshoppers anymore.

The grasshoppers were confused.

“What do you mean?”

The ants moved their feelers sympathetically. “We have found ways to live without you or the boy anymore.” The grasshoppers were still confused. The ants explained, “Whenever the boy visited you, he cleared a path through the grasses, making it easier for us go out and find food. And before, you would give us food for the pebbles. But now, we’ve found a way to grow our food. Right here.” They showed the grasshopper their nest full of food, which looked just as the grasshoppers’ nest had looked many, many years ago. Then the grasshoppers saw the ants had started their own garden, filled with whole fruits!

The grasshoppers didn’t have a choice. They asked the ants, “Please, can we do anything for you in exchange for some food?”

The ants thought about it and decided they could still use the grasshoppers.

And soon the grasshoppers found themselves an integral part in the growing careers of food service, landscaping, and housekeeping.

Is the easy life truly easy?

I was at the gym the other day, and I saw the cardio room filled with people, everyone moving on stationary machines, but going nowhere, and I laughed to myself. Later, on the way out, my laughter turned to amazement when someone told me about a projection keyboard her teacher used in her class. I didn’t understand how a keyboard could be projected and still work. Then I got to thinking about how our entire economy was dependent on bankers buying and selling bets, and how that could work.

Sounds abstract? I think so, too. So…

Is it possible to make life too abstract?

In a previous blog. I talked about how exercise gives us a feeling of accomplishment which is needed in a society that seeks to make things easier. When I looked out on the rows of cardio machines last week, I saw something a little different. There were people running in place. I turned to the other end of the gym, where people were lifting weights, up and down, over and over again.

It’s funny how we’ve replaced the work that gives us this exercise naturally, like washing clothes by hand, walking or biking to work, or raising and making our own food. We have specialized roles now, a machine washes our clothes or a laundromat offers to do it for us. Groceries provide us food, and a cook and a waiter who provide us meals. There are garbage men to pick up our trash and lawn service for our yards. We’ve got cars that we can drive, taxi drivers that can drive us, and car mechanics that will change our oil.

The same thing is happening with our retirement accounts. Instead of investing in stocks and bonds in companies we think are making a good product, we give our money to bankers and they make us money. They still buy stocks and bonds, but today we have added bets in the mix. These are bets that someone else’s purchase is going to go up in value. You can even bet whether something will go down in value.

Sound abstract? I think so, too.

The easy decision is easy…at first

We use machines to make it easier to do things and get places. It’s easy, but then we realize we bought a car that has 6 cylinders, instead of 4, and has cargo space for 6 people, and those things cost more. We realize that our sedentary lifestyle requires us to exercise. Not easy, because we must now pay money and make extra time to drive to a gym.

We’ve lost the knowledge of how to landscape a yard, or even change the oil in our car, and this makes us more helpless than before. And instead of making meals which we know the ingredients, we buy convenient meals which can contain sugars and fats that are out of our hands, hidden in the food.

Maybe most important, our investments are made by bankers. They send us statements that show that our little pile of money is ever increasing. It’s easy. Until we realize we don’t know what a derivative is, or a collateralized debt obligation, but we staked our future on them. We then realize that everything we’re doing is postponing the cost. The cost of us not supervising the banker is measured by the number of lost jobs and failed businesses after the banks defraud us and mismanage our investments.  

Sound abstract? I think so, too.

My cousin is vice-president of Securities at TD Bank.  He might be able to help us sort it out. I asked him how the derivative collapse affected them. He said, “Not too much.”

“Really?” I answered, surprised.

 “We looked at mortgage derivatives as a possible investment. We didn’t understand it, so we passed,” he answered simply.

If something is too complicated, ask why that is.

Maybe then we can make our lives truly easier.