Advice is an interesting thing. It may be as worthless as a fleeting cliché or it might be your philosophical key to unimaginable personal success. There’s no way to know beforehand. You only find out if you follow it. That’s where great advice gains its value. Though given for free, it becomes priceless.
So clearly what you do with what I’m about to share is entirely up to you. You get to live however you choose.
That, in fact, is actually my advice.
Live however you choose.
Seems simple, huh? No? Seems impossible? It is as simple or complex as we make it. You can see life as something that happens to you, and is a result of luck, or you can decide that every outcome and moment is a result of your very own decisions, actions, behaviors, and perspectives.
Our struggles, our pain, our frustration, our happiness, joy and sorrow… They are all our own personal creations. We may not choose every aspect of our lives. We may not have control over everything (though we have much more than we often believe). We do, however, get to decide how we want to respond and react to those things.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say your person of interest does not reciprocate your feelings. Ouch, right? Now what? Well, you’re kind of sad about it… But wait! Let’s stop and think for a moment! Do you HAVE to be sad about it? If you want to be sad, then be sad. That’s okay. It’s a human feeling, and sometimes we need to embrace every feel to experience all of life. But if you don’t? Well, then… We have some choices to make.
“Do I want that person to become interested?” Well, the first means of being attractive is likely to be smiling, happy, independent, exciting and vibrant, and probably not sad and mopey. Sad and mopey is usually not sexy.
But! “Is it worth feeling sad about a person who doesn’t see how remarkable and lovable you are?” Yes, yes… That person has nice teeth, and really cool hair. Got it. Neither of those will sustain you indefinitely. Be honest! No they won’t! If that person can’t see how truly amazing you are they’re maybe a little too obtuse or lack the intellectual horsepower to be worthy of you. In fact, let me tell you this: the right person for you – the one that will really make you happy – is the one who enters your life and chooses to stay. It’s not the person you hunt, trap, or chain down… But that’s another conversation.
“Okay, so so maybe that person isn’t quite worth it. Fine. I’m still sad. Now what?” Well this is the tough part. You may have to wrestle with it a bit. Why are you sad? Ask yourself that. Ask it again. Ask it again and again until you can start being really honest in how you answer. Ask it until you really know and understand your sadness. And then find the choices… Because ultimately you get to choose to be sad or not. Believe it or not, you do.
Maybe in your digging, you find that it’s not this person at all. It’s that you’re afraid you’ll always be alone. Then ask yourself, “Why is that so terrible?” There are so many good things about being independent and having to answer to no one! You are free to be with whomever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like! No tethers! No strings!
You may find it’s because you are afraid you’re really ugly. Then ask yourself, “What is beauty, really, other than a social construct?” It’s an made up thing, so why can’t you make up your own mind about it, and decide that the absolute pinnacle of beauty is you – your skin, your bones, and the exact color of your eyes?
You may find it’s because of something else entirely, but the one thing that I know is that eventually if you keep digging you’ll discover the choice – your choice – about your perspective.
That’s just one example. There are more than I could fathom. We get to choose how we feel about how much money we have, or the place that we sleep, or our bodies, or the things that we own, or the people in our lives. If we could only remember that it’s up to us and nobody else. And then when we’ve decided that there are some things we choose to not be content with, we can then choose to change them, whether it takes a moment or a thousand years.
Ultimately that’s what it comes down to. Every feel we feel is a result of our perspective. When we analyze it enough, we can find the places where we get to choose to hold on to that perspective or to let it go… And trust me. Most times it’s scary or uncomfortable to let it go. But let it go. It’s probably scary the first time a bird spreads its wings and jumps into the sky too.
Good luck! – JUST KIDDING!!! – Good choices!
Love isn’t a day.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much a fan of holidays. Why celebrate our dads only on fathers’ day? Why celebrate moms only on mothers’ day? Give thanks only on thanksgiving? Bosses? Secretaries? Presidents? Veterans? Why does Martin Luther King, Jr. get a day, but not Louis Pasteur or Alexander Flemming? Or Ghandi? Or Einstein? Or Newton?
Why is there no universal global celebration for music? Or philanthropy? Why is there one world-wide “New Year’s” celebration when time is just a made up thing?
Why did we have to steal a holiday named for some dead guy with serious ophidiophobia to celebrate love? Why isn’t there just a world wide “love day”?
Most of all, why do we even need an arbitrary day to remind us – even obligate us – to tell the people we love how we feel? Let me tell you now… If you feel that way about somebody and you don’t tell that person you love them all the time – and make sure they both know and feel it – you’re going about love all wrong.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who would tell me I’ve got it all mixed up and backwards. They’d say, “Valentine’s day is a great excuse to show your love even more! …An extra little push to tell people that they are special to you… That they have your heart… That you love them!”
I disagree. You don’t need an excuse. Don’t wait for one. Valentines day is over for the year. Are you going to wait another whole year for every commercial on the internet, radio, television and newspaper to tell you again that it’s time to say, “I love you” again? Are you going to allow them to pressure you or make you feel broken and foolish if you don’t have a somebody else?
I hope not. I hope that you are somebody who loves because they want to love, and lets love come any time it’s right. I hope you love every day, and not just one out of every year. I hope that every single day you feel the love that exists for you. Because it does exist just as surely as your beating heart… and you deserve every bit of it.
What is the cost of kindness?
It’s free. It takes nothing away from us. But so many treat it like the most hoard-worthy commodity the world has ever seen.
I watch people act so selfishly all the time… “I’m grumpy, so I’ll act that way and I don’t care what it does to you. I’m angry, and it doesn’t matter if you made me that way, I’m going to take it out on you and everybody else I encounter. I’m sad, so I’ll bring you down too. I’m entitled, so I don’t care if I walk on you.”
So many people should be carrying signs to tell these things to the world – signs hand-lettered in their own sad and miserable script. Maybe if they had to do that they’d reflect and reconsider their behaviors. But perhaps that’s an even greater problem – the real problem. So many people walk around blind. They would be shocked if they were able to watch themselves from the outside – horrified to see themselves reflected in the mirror of truth.
I’m glad you’re not like that.
You are one of the few remarkable people who care about the world and what they do to it… Thank you for that. For being a beacon of kindness in an obliviously unkind world. Sometimes your kindness will be a single star twinkling behind a cloudy night sky, maybe obscured and changing little…. But every once in a while you kindness will be like a tiny match, struck bright and igniting some ready tinder, starting a fire that warms everybody within its cosy reach.
Either way, don’t give up. Shine! Even when the world makes you feel absurd to shine… Shine brighter! Even if all you can muster is a dim little spark, never forget that it means something to be kind. Somebody else feels it. They’ll reflect it at another somebody, and maybe even back at you.
Kindness matters… And because you have the choice to be kind or unkind, and you choose kind… You matter.
It’s interesting how many things in our lives can be a sort of window into who we really are… our deeper personalities, our quirks, our passions, our faults. I can think of several at the moment. The inside of your car (if you have one). Your bag. Your wallet. Your computer desktop. Your locker (again, if you have one). Your bedroom… and of course, your closet. Is it perfectly organized and carefully sorted? It it a chaotic mess? Is it full beyond it’s capacity? Is it empty? Is it comfortable or strict? Is it flamboyant or minimal? So much can be gleaned from such a small part of our world.
My closet is seldom this well organized. It just got a bit of an overhaul today. I boxed up some items that I didn’t need in there… some I’ll say goodbye to and send away. Some I’ll visit again someday in the future.
It reminds me of the rest of our lives. We have old favorite friends that we would never part with no matter what, but we may not see them every day. We have others that were just what we needed at the time and had a good run, but have become passé because they were a little too trendy to last. Some we barely knew… that just didn’t ever click.
Be careful what you keep. We all have too much. Really. We do. The population of this closet of mine could be culled again by a good third – probably twice that – and I wouldn’t miss a thing. What we own also owns us. It’s a terrible struggle in this consumerist culture in which we live, but I think that he or she who owns the least often wins. That least must meet the individual’s basic needs, of course, but to have just enough and not a bit more? That seems the perfect balance. It means freedom, selflessness, generosity, and a sort of imperviousness toward loss.
The paintbrush is also mightier than the sword.
The pen, the pencil, the keyboard, the microphone, the camera… anything that lets us communicate our thoughts without violence against another. All mightier. Not that you can’t bend any of these tools toward the violent – I’ve seen that more times than necessary – but at their best, they are tools to spread more than ink or paint. They are our means of spreading knowledge and understanding. The recipient needs not agree, but disagreement also does not equal immediate mortal peril.
Imagine if we as a species had never taken a single step down the path toward war. No guns, no mines, no bombs, no tanks, no knives or clubs wielded against each other. They’re so much a part of our culture that it’s hard to even dream of such a thing… but do. I’m not suggesting a species with no conflict. Debating different ideas moves us forward… but what if we did only that.
The best cultures would automatically emerge as victorious… not because of their military might, but because their ideas are the best… The species would have to invest all that effort and capitol that is now wasted on war (or preparation for war) in something more constructive. Health, science, and education perhaps? We would have already cured major diseases, explored planets, and advanced the collective intelligence of our species exponentially.
We have so much to learn, and so much improvement to make.
Passing through the boundaries of privacy is dangerous business!
We shout to the world that we are the country of openness and freedom… But we really have just as many secrets as everybody else. The world is full of them, from the very smallest (the secrets of quantum mechanics) to the every day secrets (the ones that you and I keep hidden deep) to the big government secrets (where do all our taxes really go?) to the incomprehensibly giant secrets (how did the universe begin?).
We prod and pry and tease, and sometimes we learn what was once private. Sometimes we never do.
Imagine if it wasn’t that way though? Nothing kept hidden? No secrets at all? What would the world be like if we freely volunteered any and all information we possessed? What if we always shared exactly what we felt? Could we all live that way? Our deepest desires. Our beliefs. Our loves. Our frustrations… Free for all to know.
Would the world be better or worse? It’s hard to say. It’s easy to think that it would be ideal when we remove ourselves from the equation: “Hmmm… It would be a utopia in which openness and honesty reigned supreme! I would never have to guess about a person’s true feelings or motives! Deceit would be a thing of the past. That would be great!”
“…But wait,” we’d think, “I would have to tell all too? I would have to walk around philosophically and psychologically naked? WHOA! Hold up now… I’m not so sure about that.”
Yeah, it would be tough. But maybe it would be worth it. You would never again be hurt by a secret revealed. The burden of keeping secrets would be lifted. I think that would be pretty freeing.
Maybe we should give it a try and test it out. The next time we’re inclined to post a private sign, let’s instead lay out a welcome mat.
If only we could… Zeitgeist here we come!
Where have all the gentlemen gone?
I taught myself to tie a bow tie last night. I feel like this was a life achievement, up there with traveling Europe, climbing Mount Everest racing cars and piloting a plane.
So much of what is considered gentlemanly has been sadly forgotten. Some say chivalry is dead. I prefer to think of it as a lost art. But being kind, thoughtful, brave, selfless or heroic are things that should never go out of style.
It often seems that we are living in a society that grows continually more self involved, self centered, self indulgent, and self obsessed. I know some people personally who are clear but oblivious representatives of this unfortunate trend. Simple kindnesses like offering a hand, holding a door, pausing long enough for a cheery hello are all neglected.
To be a gentleman, one should be true to one’s word, honest, trustworthy, kind, helpful, and selfless, often willing to put another’s agenda ahead of one’s own. I also don’t think being gentlemanly is exclusive to a single gender. Anybody could embrace that sort of character.
I wish we could go back to the days when those qualities were more common… But maybe we can! Maybe if I try, and you do too we can start a gentlemanly revolution! Let’s do it! Ladies and gentlemen… Don your monocles, tie up your bow ties and wax up your mustaches! Get out there and care!
Make your own path.
It’s not easy. Walking in the footprints of others is much easier. The decisions have been made for you. They are tried and true. They are safe. They are predictable, and they let you know what to expect… They are ruts.
But in the beginning there were no footprints there at all… Until they were created by one intrepid traveller. That person either had no choice but to forge a new way because nobody had yet attempted it, or he or she saw that many had been going about things the same way, when there was a better one to be found.
Either way I want to be counted among the pioneers and innovators – the ones that change the world. I have often squared off against safety and convention with defiance and irreverent questioning. I have had to hammer against the walls thrown up by conformity and narrow minds… The followers. Sadly our “leaders” are often among them… But that should never be an excuse to give up.
Even if you end up finding a way that isn’t the best, at least you stand out as somebody who was brave enough to try. There is always a choice. A choice to walk a path that was previously unwalked. Sometimes that path has simply been overlooked, because of lack of vision. Sometimes it can clearly be seen, but it has been deemed unnecessary, or undesirable. Sometimes it has been flatly labeled impossible.
We do impossible things all the time, but only because somebody made an attempt.
Choose your own way, do the impossible, and defy convention. Life is too short to waste it on boring routine.
Walk your own walk.
We all start as a seed.
This is the beginning of a Japanese maple tree. A tree that will become a carefully sculpted bonsai one day. We all are like that. We start as a seed, and grow according to our nature for a while. Some of us germinate in wild soil, and untended, we grow whichever way we wish. We grow wild as the wind and are shaped by only the sun and our own whim.
Others begin in this wild way, and then are tended and guided. Carefully, lovingly, we are shaped by our mentors into something we could never have become on our own.
We sometimes struggle against this guidance. We want to be free from the influence of any other. But nobody can truly flourish in a vacuum. When we embrace that persistent pruning, tending, bending, and encouragement from the hands of a master, we each can grow into our own masterpiece.
Here’s hoping you bend without breaking. Sprout & spread your branches wide.
Knock loud, I’m home.
There are so many doors in life. Most of them we never try. Some might have nothing behind them. Some might lead to a whole new world.
We choose. Recklessly or carefully.
Sometimes we simply stand at the door and endlessly debate… And that itself is our decision. Sometimes we choose a door, turn a knob and all the possibilities collapse into a single outcome. Sometimes we don’t even notice that we’ve stepped over a threshold. Sometimes the door is so clear and heavy it is obvious that going through it will change us forever.
How many doors did you walk through today? Did they take you where you wanted to go?
The thing is, whether the answer is yes or no there’s no going back… they all only go one way.
So many lights. So many people.
Do you ever feel the weight of it? There are thousands and thousands of people out there. Each one has a life full of struggle, joy, love, pain, passion, disappointment, happiness, tears… So much. Repeated over and over again nearly into the infinite.
It makes you stop and think. You are not alone in anything you do or feel or wish. Somebody out there has felt, is feeling, or will feel the same. We are all part of a much greater whole.
Everything we will ever experience, and everything we have known is part of that whole. It has all happened in a brief flash of time on a tiny little planet floating through an incomprehensibly vast universe. Always changing and always the same.
It’s maybe a difficult idea to come to terms with, but if you really embrace that thought, you accept that your current problems or worries are practically non-existent at that scale.
We are part of each other, and we are all part of the life on this little blue dot.
Maybe someday we can start treating the planet and the people on it that way… As good or bad as we treat ourselves.
Human beings are the only species that can be truly homeless.
Sure there are “homeless” dogs, cats, chimps, owls, and a myriad of other creatures out there, but only because we say they are. I’m pretty sure they don’t think of themselves that way. They just think “this is how and where I currently live.” …if they think of such things at all, which I doubt.
So why? Why is it that we can be homeless? I guess it’s just because we choose to see ourselves that way, and we further choose to allow ourselves to stay in one situation or another.
Could we move? Sure! Could we find a way to be more prosperous in the place that we are in? Yes. Yes we could.
Maybe it’s because humans are the only species that have no limit on caring for the weak, vulnerable, or sick, and at the same time, we are the only species that is perfectly comfortable allowing others to do this for us.
Other species care for the weak, but when it is clear that there is no hope for improvement, and that the individual has become a dangerous burden to the group, nature is given leave to take its course. Likewise, other species allow themselves to be cared for, but if that care is gone (or often even when it’s still present) they will do the best they can to ensure their own survival.
I’m not advocating a lack of compassion, or a need to turn our backs on people who are by whatever cause, without the means to live comfortably. I just think that we could solve so many more problems if we’d just look at them a little differently.
Sometimes we need to see the world more simply, and learn a lesson or two from the animals that we pretend are so far beneath us.
Maybe common sense is for the birds.
The shadow knows!
While waiting for my train today the sun was bright enough for the first time in a while to actually cast a good shadow. It felt like spring was just around the corner.
Sometimes we forget that there’s always another side to things. We attach judgements to the world around us, but they’re arbitrary, and we judge the good only because we also have judged its opposite as bad.
Cold is only cold because we know warmth. High is only breathtaking when we can see the low below us. Long is a distance that means nothing unless we also have a sense of short. Happy moments are happier when contrasted with the experience of past sadness. Shadows are only dark because we’ve experienced light.
So much of what we know is the result of contrast. A fish probably couldn’t comprehend what dry is. For the same reason it’s hard for us to even try to comprehend advanced concepts in science, like higher dimensions.
So let’s not be so quick to decide that one thing is good and another is bad, and be thankful for the dark because without it we could never appreciate the light.
Lights out! Oh no!
Imagine a world unplugged. It’s really hard to do. So much would change. No Internet. No computers. No phones. No radio. No music unless it’s live or on vinyl. No light at night unless it’s fire. No refrigeration. No heat unless it’s fire. Whoa. Our world would be utterly different.
But would it be worse, or would it actually somehow be better?
I think a little of both. The lack of access to information and the inability for long-term communication would be bad.
The refocus on the simple things, and the re-prioritizing of of our lives wouldn’t be so bad. We’d stop worrying about whether that Gucci bag is real, or if our smart phone is the latest and greatest, and we’ll start thinking about how to feed everybody and keep them healthy.
We’d learn to talk to each other again without a device in between. We’d start caring about the people around us more than the television or celebrity of the moment.
Let’s start practicing now just in case.
No. No, no, no. No-no. No!
Have you ever thought about how many times a day we see or hear that word? No? So many times.
Why are we all so obsessed with the negative? I’m not suggesting we abolish it completely – the word no certainly has its place – but can’t we be a bit more judicious in how and when we use it?
No is absolute. It is authoritative. It is often intended to shut down hope. It is a rule… And maybe that’s my problem with it. For some, rules are to create order and maintain peace and harmony. To me rules are more often senseless dogma. They are meant to assert control and strengthen authority. They are black and white, and they tell us not to consider the possibilities in between. They are static convention. I say they’re often meant to be defied, questioned, and sometimes broken. I guess you could say there’s a bit of anarchist in me, but if you look back you could say that about anybody who changed the world for the better.
They didn’t accept no for an answer no matter how many times it was said to them. They fought no with why, and they ultimately won…
So the next time you have “no” on your lips, slow down… Ask yourself, “Why not?” Maybe your answer will come out differently…And the next time you’re told “no” don’t give up. Ask, “Why not?”
Maybe you’ll change the world.
Take the leap! How often have you wished for another day, another hour, or even a few more minutes so you could finish something? How many times have you thought, “I’d do _____ if I just had more time.”?
Well you do.
Time is a funny thing. It’s pretty much just made up. This year we get a whole extra twenty four hours in our made up calendar. An extra day. Maybe you didn’t notice, but it’s there. Now you can do those things that you’ve wished you could do. If you don’t happen to use the 29th of February to do those adventurous, wonderful, aspirational things, I’m sure you can choose a suitable replacement from the 307 days remaining in the year.
Pick one and do what you want! Ready? Go!