The day you actually changed

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(30 seconds to read)

“Everyone is crippled in some area, and everyone is somewhere on the path of evolution, some ahead of us and some behind. In the steps we have walked are the old lessons of life, and before us are new teachings.

There is nothing to feel guilty about and nothing to blame. There is no one to hate, but there is that which is better avoided, and such blind alleys will become increasingly apparent.”

The day you awaken is when you see the blind alleys you turn into.

The day you actually change is the day you know you are not that person anymore.

Quote credit: Dr. David Hawkins


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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.

TED Talk Tuesday invaded by FOX News: What if…?


“What if the two-party system were actually a mechanism used to limit so-called public opinion? What if there were more than two sides to every issue, but the two parties wanted to box you in to a corner, one of their corners?

What if there’s no such thing as public opinion, because every thinking person has opinions that are uniquely his own?

What if public opinion were just a manufactured narrative that makes it easier to convince people that if their views are different, there’s something wrong with that – or something wrong with them?

What if the whole purpose of the Democratic and Republican parties was not to expand voters’ choices, but to limit them?

What if those vaunted differences between Democrat and Republican were actually just minor disagreements?

What if both parties just want power and are willing to have young people fight meaningless wars to enhance that power?

What if both parties continue to fight the war on drugs just to give bureaucrats and cops bigger budgets and more jobs?

What if government policies didn’t change when government’s leaders did?

What if no matter who won an election, government stayed the same?

What if government were really a revolving door of political hacks, bent on exploiting the people while they’re in charge?”

Who watches the watcher?
The answer is clear.
It’s you and me!
An enlightened and knowledgeable population.
The government and corporations and banks don’t rule us.
They serve us.
We can change the power imbalance that has drifted to them.

Yes.
We can.

The joy of finding over keeping

I was cleaning my bathroom the other day. It was long overdue a wipe-down. I noticed a seashell lost in the midst of other things. It had come from a trip I took to the Siesta Keys. After I returned home, my experience in the Keys made me realize a lesson that everyone learns, but some of us forget. I am good at forgetting. So I sit and write about things.

While I was down there, I went running along the beach one morning and I came across a whole unbroken shell. I was excited. Most of the shells covering the beach were broken. I palmed the shell and kept running, enjoying the surf crash reassuringly but keeping an eye out on the sand. And then I saw another whole shell! It had a sheen that the other didn’t have. I palmed this one in my other hand. By the end of the trip, I had collected several perfect shells. I packed them carefully and took them home.

After a time, I realized the shells sitting there meant little to me. It was discovering them that made me happy. We often get lost in the collecting. Then, when we stop and think about it, we realize we’re going the wrong way. We’ve made a ritual of this action, and forgotten why we’re doing it. All we wanted was a happy experience, not a subservient one to collecting shells. Or money. Or following a guru.

Our actions come from who we are. Our creative process makes life worth living. Not our consumption or holding onto our creations in fear of losing them.

I threw all the shells away, except for one.

It’s the one I kept to remind me to focus on the discovery and not worry about the collecting.

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.

I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.

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.

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.”

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.