Barriers

There are so many walls, closed doors and iron bars in my mental picture that understanding life can sometimes be difficult. I’ve spent the last 10 plus years unlearning religion and yet I find so much of its cages still there. If I could find proof in a god or even if there was no god it would seem easier. But yet in the old behavioral science experiments the opposite is the case. In spite of the door being opened the animals still had difficulty leaving.

Is there a reason for the friction?

If you want to visit DisneyWorld, you’ll need to buy a ticket and wait in line.

If you want to see the full moon, you can go outside and look up in the sky.

Often, we’re tempted to create friction, barriers and turnstiles. We try to limit access, require a login, charge a fee… sometimes, that’s because we want control, other times we believe we can accomplish more by collecting money. Clearly, people value the moments that they spend at Disney–with hundreds of dollars on the line and just a few hours to spend, there’s an urgency and the feeling of an event occurring. – Seth Godin

When I can, I don’t make life so difficult. If I see a need and I can help, I help. God doesn’t need to be consulted or any religion. If I need money, I work. If I can make money at what I love doing, then great, otherwise I’ll do what someone else will pay me to do. I’m not going to sit around and worry because I’m not making money by being impressive. I want to just live my life without difficulty.

 

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Bread Crumbs of Fun

Which is better, momentary happiness or long-term fulfillment? Do I eat the cookie or imagine losing 10 pounds? It’s easy to diet when there’s no ice cream melting in the bowl in front of me, but it’s not easy late at night and the craving for something sweet starts. There has to be a way for me to stay with my goals. 

Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything.  Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others.  By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop.  Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead. – Robert Greene 48 Laws of Power

I’m wondering if it’s possible to have a goal, plan a way towards it, and create road markers or breadcrumbs to keep myself motivated. I can sometimes get so caught up in a goal that I forget the short-term pleasures. I’ve got the nose to the darn grindstone and it hurts. Getting up and resting can feel quitting. So I’m thinking that if I mark my path with simple reminders, I can take up where I left off and not feel lost along the way.

Let me tell you, I’m a bit obsessed with the show Doctor Who. In the The Parting of the Ways (2005) episode, Rose, by cracking open the power core, absorbed all the energy from the time machine, Tardis. Why? She was separated from The Doctor and had to save him. Oh the craziness of love. With eyes full of burning Tardis light, she tells The Doctor how she made her way back and found him. Of course it’s not her talking, it’s the possessing force of the time machine that’s glowing through her. 

Rose Tyler: I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words (“BAD WOLF”)

[Rose lifts her hand and takes the words from the Bad Wolf Corporation sign]

Rose Tyler: …I scatter them, in time and space.

[the words float off away from them]

Rose Tyler: A message, to lead myself here. –IMdB Quotes

When I go for a run I make a point to find one moment of thrill. Whether it’s the grass or the trees or the view of the city, something along the way should make me smile.  What do you think? Any ideas?

Here’s a video of Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton – The key to transforming yourself

48 Laws of Power

In the Name of Love

What overtakes us when we’re in love? What is this passion, this force that motivates us to set ourselves aside?

What you don’t understand is
I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya
Read more: Bruno Mars – Grenade Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Last winter, after a ridiculous ice storm, I got out of my warm home for two reasons, both for love. Early that Saturday morning I went to watch my oldest son walk across the stage with the other college graduates. I wouldn’t have missed it. Zombie attacks, apocalypse, earthquakes, or whatever. I love that boy.

Later that day, and not a bit warmer, I stood in a line that wrapped around the corner and the along the side of The Brady Theater. A light drizzle of ice was falling, but my friends and I stood and waited and shivered. Why? Our favorite band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, was playing for the Rockin’ Christmas concert.

But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door – Proclaimers

Passion motivates us to do many things. And you can’t fake it. I’ve tried to be passionate about things but there’s no life if there’s no love. No zest. It’s an internal motivation that can’t be bought or borrowed. Forcing yourself to complete a task you hate is necessary at times, but you won’t hurry up to do it again and the time spent doing it is draining. Exhausting. I’m currently reading a book called DO NOTHING. It’s a very Zen or Taoist concept. I’ve played with this notion for years as I’m sure you have too, but I think I understand it now. So I stop grasping at every loose end and unfinished task. Focus on what’s the most important and the tasks that are lead by my motivation. There are two questions that have stuck with me that I read a few years back in a time management book,

What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night? These are your passions.

Wisdom and Wizardry

Harry Potter
Harry Potter (Photo credit: Pixelsior)

I’ve been a fan of sci-fi and fantasy stories since way back. In a land far, far away and all of that. I always wanted to be the wizard or the Yoda-like person. It seemed cool to have all of that wisdom and knowledge. What I didn’t realize when I was young was that the knowledge they had, came like everyone else. They weren’t born with it. They learned it and sometimes they learned it in very dangerous ways.

I just finished reading Skin Game by Jim Butcher from the Harry Dresden series. There’s a scene where Harry goes to the super-bad, mob guy’s business and is blocked by the security guard. The security guard is glaring ominously at Dresden and is quite intimidating. The kicker is what Dresden says,

“Skaldi’s frown would have been intimidating if I hadn’t spent the past few days hanging out with the Genoskwa (scary Sasquatch).” – Harry Dresden

Harry then proceeds to walk past the security knowing where he’s going, because he’d been there before, which looks like wizardry to the security. His only wizardry was experience.

Sometimes age and wisdom and wizardry look the same. Experience. The path and the answers are mapped out in their head. Here’s my favorite line from The Mummy,

Evelyn: The map! The map! We forgot the map!

Rick: Relax. I’m the map. It’s all up here. [points to his head]

Evelyn: Oh, that’s comforting.

Sometimes we overlook the knowledge that we have. You’ve been there, you’ve done that, you have the DVD collection. Share your knowledge if you can. Encourage others around you. It may seem ordinary to you, but the words you say are the words someone else needs to hear. None of us want to sound like a know-it-all, and there’s always a chance that you will, but another may still need your advice.

The Simple Life

We say we miss the good old days when times were simple. Snapping green beans on the front porch or eating homemade ice cream comes to mind. Maybe I just miss the innocence of youth.

I feel bad about the struggles on the other side of the world, but I’m limited to what I can do. I can listen to Beatles music. Maybe say a few lines of Rumi. It’s not by any means stopping the skirmishes of fighting tribes. I don’t really wish for the old days, not really. They had their own issues. Days were devoted to food preparation and lives cut short by disease. What I want is simplicity. Living with this moment. Making the most of what I have now. I don’t want to be always thinking about the fun of tomorrow or worrying about the issues that are not in my control.

This We Have Now

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not
grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come and go.
This is the presence that doesn’t.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

The next time you’re watching the news and paying your bills while trying to phone your mom and pet your cat, stop. Do one thing. Only one. Choose your activity wisely and give it your full attention.
Save your sanity and realize your own limitations. It’s okay if you can’t fix everything. It’s okay if you can’t save the world. Now, let’s put on our tie dyed shirts and chant OM.

Recommendation: The No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Foolish Contentment

Drawing for user page

I went browsing on Realtor.com last weekend, just for kicks. I have pondered whether to fix up my place or trade to a place that has some of the features I’m wanting. With property values down I hate to add a lot of upgrades to my current place since it’s not going to be recouped for a while. This is my line of thinking at least. Thinking, mulling over, and obsessing. Here’s a bit of advice from others that I found helpful:

One of the human absurdities is the fact that we’re constantly thinking about either the future or the past. – Being Nobody Going Nowhere

Surrender literally means to stop fighting. Stop fighting with yourself. Stop fighting the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop resisting and pushing against reality. Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input. It’s not about inaction. It’s about taking action from that place of surrender energy. – Let Go of Control/TinyBuddha

Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care.  Letting go doesn’t mean we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the impossible–controlling that which we cannot–and instead, focus on what is possible–which usually means taking care of ourselves.  And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible. Melody Beattie

My fear is of being stuck with a piece of property that will be worthless. Remember the hot potato game we played when we were kids or even the dirty Santa game? No one wants to play the fool. Do I like where I’m at in life? Yes, I do. And not just my location, my lifestyle.

For me it’s not about keeping up with another person, it’s about pleasing myself. It’s not about someone else’s opinion. They can mind their own business. Only I know what’s best for me. It’s not about status, wealth, or fame. It’s about survival. It seems to come back to that a lot. Survival and getting stuck with the foolish choice. There is hope in knowing and wanting and then allowing things to happen. It’s hopeful to know that what I want isn’t a new house. It’s making a wise choice.

Kiva.org was foolish to think a $25.00 loan could help anyone. Kickstarter.com was foolish to think anyone else would care about up and coming entrepreneurs. Think of all the other fools out there. Foolishness could be bravery or shrewdness if the plan works.

We must learn to let go, to give up, to make room for the things we have prayed for and desired. – Charles Fillmore

As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break. Now is not the time for you to be strong, Julia, or you, too, will break. – Julia Butterfly Hill

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The Process of Doing

Choices

  • First, there’s the discomfort. It’s either boredom or dissatisfaction of where I’m at or how something is working. Inconvenience can trigger the discomfort also, like constantly walking around the same chair in my path.
  • Second, there’s dreaming, of wants, desires or possibilities. Do I like the chair? Should I put in another room? Rearrange the Living room?
  • Third, I bring it down to reality by choosing the most practical ideas. Sketch out my Living room furniture placement. Arrange it on paper.
  • Fourth, I write a plan. Maybe the easiest thing for today is move the chair into the bedroom.
  • Fifth, I take the first steps. Move the chair. I can decide over the next few days if it’s working.

Tailspin

What turns me into a confused ball in the corner of the room is a different solution popping up in front of me. One or two more ways of solving my problem and it starts my process over again. At that point I have to regroup and reassess. How does this change my decision? If I possibly can I like to ponder for a few days until I have my aha! moment. Otherwise I make the simplest choice first, like in my example of the chair. I can move the chair from one room to another easier than I can arrange the furniture again and again. Sometimes you have to do the big thing, but at least you’ve tried the simple ones first.

Sloppy vs Perfected

Life is about choices. Nothing’s inherently right or wrong, it’s only a matter of my preferences. Life is the rough draft and the final presentation is the last breath of life. In those last moments you review all the refining you’ve done. Sometimes the rough draft is alright. Hastily slapped together and just getting it done works better than not doing anything at all when it comes to kisses, food and proposals. I’d rather a quick kiss and an I love you than not ever, ever being told, but there comes a time for refining those choices. If you really love that person, eventually you have to refine your sloppy kisses into steps that have meaning. Whether it’s inviting them to coffee or not forgetting their birthday, you have to take the first step.

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Humanism isn’t Evil and Christianity isn’t Good

Most religious people believe that our moral goodness, our kind deeds, come from Christianity. At this I completely disagree. That’s like saying if you live in Wisconsin, you’re a Green Bay Packer fan. There are many cheese head fans that don’t live in Wisconsin and there are many Wisconsin citizens that are not football fans.

Morality is the main reason most religious advocates say we need the church. This is by formal religions such as Catholics and Jews, as well as fundamentalists. One debate I watched was a female minister who stated that without the religious community, our society wouldn’t have anyone to turn to in times of crisis. She disregarded much of the teachings in the Bible as literal fact, but still held to the concept of formal religion. She stated that it was the church, temple, mosque or chapel community that provided support after a death or during stressful times.

Is Christianity true to its heritage? Why say you’re a Christian? Most say it to mean that they are loving, kindhearted, and generous. They want to portray themselves as loyal to their country and family orientated. We have a picture in our head of the Christian as being the person who comes during a tragedy with the food supplies and blankets. If there’s a fire, the Christian is the kind person providing you with shelter. Why do we have to link Christianity with kindness? Can a person be kind and not Christian? On the other hand, can a Christian not be kind?

Friends are enemies sometimes, 

and enemies friends. -Rumi

I want us to unlink these assumptions. The next time you do a kindness, think about it. Are you doing it in the name of your god or are you handing a child a glass of water because he’s thirsty and you are a loving person? Is that hard to imagine?

The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism (alternatively known by some adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalism, while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism,pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.[1][2][3]

Scripting Happens and It’s Okay

A number of different Mentos flavors

There’s such a disconnect between scripted politeness and genuine service. The one truth I know is that it’s difficult to teach genuine politeness and service. Here’s an incident I had one hurried morning before work.

Scene: Walgreen’s corner store

After gathering up the armful of items I needed, I started looking for some mints or hard candy like Lifesavers. I get to the checkout and there are no mints. I find a box of Mentos rolls behind the iTunes gift cards. The display box has only the bottom row of Mentos left. I tried three times to get them out of the box and each time knocking  the gift cards on the floor. Nevermind.

At the checkout, I place the bag of cat litter, the 2 liter of pop and various odd items I had in my arms up on the counter.

Me: Do you have any Lifesavers or mints

Clerk: Yes we do. They’re on aisle 19.

Me: Oh. None up here by the check out?

Clerk: (stunned look) No. There are some packages over there.

Me: Yeah, I tried to get those, but they are stuck. And the gift cards are in the way.

Clerk: We have gum.

Me: I don’t want gum. I want mints. Nevermind, I’ll just check out.

Clerk: So, has your day been okay so far?

Me: (I want to laugh hysterically) Sure, fine.

Clerk: (hands my coupons and receipt to me) You have a coupon here for $4.00 off of Prilosec.

Me: (nearly speechless) Thanks.

We’ve all encountered it. It happens everywhere. The waitress that really wants to go home as she half smiles at you or the customer service person which you can’t understand as he reads off of his computer screen. He calls himself Bob, but you know that’s not his name. It’s service, but oh so scripted. It happens because we need service. It’s either scripted help or robots. I guess my point is, that anytime you happen upon a truly helpful person, notice it. Appreciate it and tell them how much you appreciate their help. And when you are in the middle of a scripted moment, just remember to be patient. Remember that scripting is necessary because we live in a modern society in need of service. Scripting happens.

While the coffee is great, (I) can testify that it’s not the primary reason regulars come to Starbucks. It’s the element of personal connection. – Carrie Dils, Good Customer Service Skills

Hormesis – Growing Stronger

I’ve talked a few times about Dynamic Equilibrium, our bodies’ ability to adjust and re-balance after it notices changes in environment or its own status. It’s a constant balancing act.

I recently learned a new word. I read a book called Antifragile, which equates the opposite of being fragile with hormesis. The opposite of fragile isn’t just unbreakable. The opposite of fragile is strengthening with each blow, breakdown or fall.

Hormesis (from Greek hórmēsis “rapid motion, eagerness,” from ancient Greek hormáein “to set in motion, impel, urge on”) is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. A pollutant or toxin showing hormesis thus has the opposite effect in small doses as in large doses. A related concept is Mithridatism, which refers to the willful exposure to toxins in an attempt to develop immunity against them. Hormetics is the term proposed for the study and science of hormesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis

In the book, Nassim Nicholas Taleb mentions how he observed a bodybuilder to learn from him the best way of building muscle. The body builder lifted weights to the extreme, but didn’t do it every day. He would push himself beyond tired, beyond his normal limits, because he knew that his body would rebuild. His body would become stronger than it was before.

This is how our brain learns new patterns. It’s also how our bones become stronger. Our bodies harden and strengthen from use. We have to use it or lose it as the old saying goes. So today, I’m going to go just a little longer on the run. Give myself a challenge that I probably can’t handle and even if I don’t reach the goal, I still will have gone farther than normal.

Check out Antifragile,Things That Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s an interesting read.

Here’s an inspiring story.