How Many Minutes Does it Take to Fix It?

—In previous generations, time was measured in hours, days, weeks, months, quarters, and years. It was done this way because most tasks took that amount of time to complete or assess. In an 8 hour work day (or 10, 12, 14, depending on job type, age, decade, etc), you knew what you could accomplish, and what you couldn’t. In any given week, a small business could measure its performance via earnings and expenditures statements. One month was a good measure of how many products were made, as compared to previous months. Quarters offered reliable and predictable benchmarks for fiscal analysis, year over year. And a year, a year was the agricultural standard for determining how one fared in life. It was a “good year” or it was a “tough year”. We measured outcomes and success in this manner, and it was good, or fine, or something, but it worked. Somewhere between “there” and “here”, we’ve rearranged the way we measure output; we’ve moved onto minutes. And what happens in any number of minutes has a disproportionate affect on how we think about the larger time frames – and policy measures.

Minutes now consume our days. We don’t necessarily speak in minutes, all the time, but we think in minutes. Sociologists measure screen-time in minutes; educators measure class routines in minutes; police measure active shooting events in minutes; workout machines measure calories and “effort” and other nonsensical stuff, in minutes; commute times are measured in minutes; we are, in effect, a society that is controlled by the number of minutes any particular chore, or job function, or social engagement, or event/catastrophe, will take-up. We are 525,600 bits of life, in any given year. And this is neither good nor bad, as far as I’m concerned, it just is.

The past 18 months has seen more than its fair share of drama-filled minutes. From natural disasters to wo/man-made disasters, storybook endings, disastrous beginnings, and all that fell somewhere in between, we’ve spent a lot of minutes watching, marching, cleaning-up after, crying over, thinking about, and just being in a particular state. The minutes that make up 2017 (and most of 2018) will get more coverage in future history books, than the minutes of most years.

Considering the past months, and considering the time we spend doing any one thing in particular, in present-day America, I wonder, how long — how many minutes that is, it will take to fix what’s been destroyed, those things that have endured a year’s worth of shit-fuckery, for lack of a better term. Or will they ever be fixed? Maybe not. Maybe we will have to start fresh on certain ideas, like the democratic process and how that works and doesn’t work, depending on the various “working parts” involved in an election cycle.

In the short-term, the next 345,600 minutes, give or take, what will you do to move the needle on that which you are passionate about – the policies and proposals that will alter future landscapes. Will you advocate for changes via marches and phone calls and emails to your elected officials? Will you actively participate in a campaign, on behalf of a candidate who espouses the values and ideals that you believe to be most important? Will you engage with friends and neighbors and family members and talk about the state of our State and our Union, and consider what changes need to take place in order to move us forward? Whatever you choose to do, do it with passion. Do it whole-heartedly. Do it as if the future depends upon it…because it does.

What path will you choose?

LOWER YOUR STRESS—STOP CARING

Stress. We all have it, to one degree or another, it’s part of life. But why? Why do we put up with it? Stress, medically speaking, and in manageable doses, is good for us, but who likes anything in manageable doses? Not us. Not Americans. We don’t do “manageable”. We go All Out, All In, All The Time. We like our heroes/heroines larger than life, our predicaments overwhelming, our dramas Real Housewives size, or bigger. We simply don’t like things that are manageable in any way, shape, or form.

This seems counter-intuitive. Why would we want unmanageable? Why would we want to raise our blood pressure unnecessarily? Why would we want to spend money we don’t have seeing doctors we don’t believe and taking prescriptions we don’t think are working? (OK, I hear the murmurs, the crowd of folks saying “I don’t like stress, I don’t go looking for stress, stress finds me”, I don’t believe you). Whether or not you think you are intentionally engaging in stressful practices, you are.

Do you watch t.v.? Stressful. Do you argue with friends about politics? religion? the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots battle to be the most despised team in America? Stressful. Do you partake in team-building exercises at your office? Stressful. Do you dine at places that offer 18,637 menu choices? Stressful. Are you employed, unemployed, under-employed, overworked, underpaid? Stressful. Everything we do (aside from bubble baths, petting animals, & listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon), is stressful. The problem isn’t that we do these things – these stress inducing “pleasures”, the problem is we don’t know how to engage in these acts dispassionately, like a good judge is able to do (with the case before them), maybe not a “so-called” judge, but a good judge.

Managing stress is essential to living a healthy life. We need some stresses to make sure we don’t get “soft” but we don’t need to take all of those stresses to bed, or make them a part of our physical being. Management, real management of stress, is essential…especially in the age of Trump (doesn’t matter if you love him or wish the “Witch Doctor” from Beetlejuice would pay him a visit, the man induces stress with his incessant whining and crying and bullying and lying). So there are two viable options available for most of us (that would include everyone who can’t afford to “get away” for six months at their villa in Manarola, Liguria). Manage the stress, or…stop caring.

This makes for a tough choice, for some. If you are of certain means, and not generally on the receiving end of aspersion casting (think White, male, “good looking“, like David Beckham, Tom Hardy, or Chris Hemsworth), it’s easier to say “fuck it, who cares!“. But, if you’re like the rest of us, the Betties, Als, Geralds, Janias, Estephanies, Juan Pablos, Ntsums, Xangs, Khadiijas & Suleymanns, the choice is not so easy. Our lives are more complicated in all matters relating to “us”. Caring, about everything related to who we are, how we feel, how those close to us feel, and even the concerns of those who aren’t close but are part of our larger community/humanity. We can’t say “fuck it”, it’s not how we do.

Stress defines us— who we are, why we exist, our raison d’être, so to speak (not the beer). It offers others a glimpse into what drives us, what sustains us, and why some days are especially difficult. We need stress, we just don’t need it to control us. So, rather than running away from it, or from who you are, figure out how to manage it and then help others do the same.  What this looks like (management) will differ based on the individual. But remember, although we are individuals, we’re all in this together…well, most of us. And, as Prince reminds us,  when “the elevator tries to bring you down, Go Crazy“. Occasionally, that’s the best response to any situation.

Lake St. Southside Minneapolis #DiamondLkPhotography

Are you ready to lower your stress? Are you Ready For The World? I am.

 

 

Life Policies: “Best Practices”

The last thing graduates need at this time of year is another article extolling them for their hard work and dedication, and offering unsolicited advice that pertains to their future. That said, it may be handy to reflect upon the skills and knowledge that have been picked up along the way. From that starting point, one can expound on the deeper meanings and offer takeaways that expand future opportunities. Moreover, this would be an appropriate topic for a blog that logs millions of hits daily and is ranked as a perennial “Top 10” (according to people who know these things); but since The Oatmeal is a little busy with other fun stuff, I guess I’ll do it. Whether finishing up your first full year in kindergarten (a disproportionate percentage of  my readers fall into this category, but that bodes well for 26.3s long-term viability), leaving elementary behind for middle school (a.k.a. Junior High), pushing on from 8th to 9th grade, receiving your high school diploma, or attaining one or another type of college parchment pronouncement, here are some Best Practices for life (and these should in no way be confused with the “best practices” used by Trump University, Enron, Washington Mutual, or Lehman Brothers).

First off, make sure you have a list of life policies that you support (e.g. people should be nice), policies you could support, if they were enacted (like, free ice cream every saturday, for everybody), policies you don’t find logical (such as, one can join the Marines at 18 but can’t legally drink a beer until they are 21, with minor exceptions), & policies you believe were written by cavemen (Smoot-Hawley, yes, literate cavemen). And then expand your list based on what you’ve learned in your time on earth.

Kindergartners often leave their first year with a sound understanding of basic social skills. It’s not a stretch then to move from simple niceties (Hello, Please, Thank You, Sorry, Pardon me, snack sharing) to the ideas of: sharing more than a snack with your fellow wo/man; holding a door for the person behind you; comforting a person or animal that is scared; standing up for those who may be unable to speak/act for themselves: the elderly, children, persons with physical, mental, emotional, disabilities, pets and other animals; and those who often go unheard: the homeless, people experiencing poverty, individuals suffering any form of abuse, the marginalized members of our communities. Six-year-olds know many of these things a posteriori, there’s no reason the rest of us shouldn’t be able to think about others’ well-being, in addition to taking care of oneself.

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Best Practices include being true to yourself.

By the time kids finish 5th grade, they have figured out that what they are good at is very often an activity that they enjoy, it’s not a coincidence. Some have a natural talent (e.g. athletics), some have been gently pushed in a general direction (e.g. readers/writers), some find that numbers just make sense in their heads, and others, well, some kids like everything, they are curious about the world.

Curiosity is a trait we are born with, i.e. it is innate. As children grow, and learn, and make mistakes (lots of this by the end of 5th grade), most of them come to understand that curiosity is a precursor to ridicule. Anytime you admit that you don’t know something, you open yourself up to comments from those who know, or think they know. Due to this form of “peer-sneering”, the overtly curious fall into two camps, those who keep the questions to themselves (which then divides into another set of camps; the closet nerds/dorks/geeks and the kids who learn to become less curious and accept the status quo without question)…

And this is a good opportunity to talk about sheep. Those who “follow blindly” as some would say, are not sheep. Two differences; 1) this assumes sheep are not smart, au contraire. Sheep understand that they are not lions or tigers or bears and therefore they place their trust with the shepherd and the sheep dogs (the caretakers/protectors). 2) People are smart; they have figured out how to navigate their own waters without capsizing their boat. This doesn’t make them weak, or stupid, or followers, it makes them people. Not everyone was born to lead, or question everything, or fight the power; nor was everyone born to build bridges, analyze massive volumes of excel data, or teach children how to read. Remember that if we were all the same, our world would be a very dull place and we know what the dull life leads to.

…and those who don’t care (like me) about what others think, we are just curious about everything and want to know who, what, why, how, when, where, and furthermore, are you certain.

Another thing noticed by graduates of the 5th grade is the speed at which life is moving—the pace of everything has quickened (excluding snails, tectonic plates, & molasses). This is to say, the adults are cramming more stuff into the same number of hours (13 & ½ to be exact). Therefore, regardless of what category of curiosity you fall into, attention spans need to be lengthened if you hope to pick-up all of the bits of information that are being thrown at you. And whether one is trying to learn everything—because why not, or because that’s the better of the two options you’ve been given in life, or you are focusing on exactly what the adults existing in your hemisphere have asked you to focus on, remember how much fun it is to be curious and learn new things. Appreciate the fleeting moments of bliss that come from every extraordinary discovery. They are often unexpected and appear out of left field—from people that you may not even be aware of. Therefore, introduce yourself to classmates that are outside of your peer-sphere. Share the joys of an aha moment as you get to know your cohort. Each member has a strength or three and a weakness or five, learn from each other, help each other, and begin to engage in the larger community you are a part of. Middle school can be scary, do everything you can to make the next few years as pleasant as possible.

Paisley Park Tribute & Memorial: 24 April 2016
Paisley Park Tribute & Memorial: 24 April 2016

If you’ve made it to the end of 8th grade, you’ve gotten through the most confusing and confounding part of life (for most). Congratulations! Between the ages of 10 and 14, our bodies and brains undergo a lot of changes. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental transformations (i.e. health & wellness) can make your head spin out of control. It is at this point that you need to “Slow It Down. Put more thought into your actions, inactions, and potential actions. Don’t “just do it”, as the shoe company implores you to. Contemplation should become a staple of your lifestyle diet.

Along with the changes they’ve undergone, another characteristic of the “rising” 9th grader is their acceptance, to varying degrees, of those with whom they don’t share many visible similarities. Many students are putting 2 & 2 together and realizing that a label: “Brown, Yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian” Native American, African American, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Hispanic/Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous Peoples from every continent, White, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, Nerd, Jock, Drama-kid, Geek, Punk, Skater, Gearhead, is not as important as the fact that we are all human; one race of people with a multitude of differences that should be respected, celebrated, understood, and cherished for what they are—unique.

High school graduates have learned a lot about the word “character”, and standardized testing. Only one of those will have any long-term affect on their life (I know what some of you are thinking, and no, I don’t think the ACT/SAT etc. are all that important either, not in terms of how one lives their life). Character; what it means, how it affects one’s life trajectory, why it’s important, and which qualities are the most salient in each individual’s particular situation, these are the things that will impact and guide lives. The residue that adheres to the students, from engaging each new day (this is the foundation of character), will carry them through the remainder of their journey. A few of the most essential character traits, in my book, are: resolve (a.k.a. grit, tenacity, sticktoitiveness, all of which tie in to work ethic), empathy, judgement, tact, and optimism; qualities found in many a 26.3er.

The grad who plans to join the Navy needs to have a lot of resolve. They spend long periods of time at sea, often with Jar-Heads aboard. The combination of a new environment and living alongside Marines is more than enough to make them question, if only briefly, their choice of military branch. Resolve gives them the ability to deal with that insecurity and move forward (or let the boat move them forward). Empathy and judgement; these two go hand-in-hand. If a person has developed a strong sense of empathy for others, they are likely to use better judgement when dealing with a given situation. They understand that life is not painted in black and white; it is, rather, a million shades of grey.

Tact. I have noticed a general decline in public prudence and sensibility. This is not to imply that everyone is rude and thoughtless but there are trends. Customer service continues to decline (this could be directly related to wages), both in real and perceived terms (and perception, to the perceiver, is reality). Tact is not reinforced; rather, the opposite of tact, disregard or carelessness in one’s manners, is occasionally reprimanded with little or no mention of the steps needed to correct the behavior. Be proactive, take the opportunity to teach when it presents itself. And if someone is taking time to teach you (without being an ass about it), pay attention. The so called “soft skills” are equally, if not more, important, in many entry-level jobs. 

Optimism is maybe the most important of all. We live in times that have seen long-term wage stagnation, hyper-vigilance amongst some individuals who are not comfortable in our increasingly diverse country, extreme political divisiveness, and an economy that works really well for about 1/5 of our population, but not nearly as well for the rest of us. It’s hard to be optimistic when “everything” seems to be working against us. Yet, not everything is horrible. The economy is getting better, if ever so slowly. We’re still waiting for the labor market to hit critical mass, in hopes of seeing wages rise, but jobs are returning, in most places. And hey, by 2021, you might be a “baller, shot caller, [with] 20″ blades on [your] Impala“.

Beyond high school, the age of post-secondary graduates varies dramatically. Non-traditional students are becoming a norm and the subjects covered are much broader now. The variety of jobs that exist today includes many that nobody had thought of 30 years ago (e.g. app developer, Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, professional hacker). So, in order to address everyone, from chefs to shellfish farmers, aircraft mechanics to actuarys, and educators to eco-system managers, I’ll recount some of the most relevant knowledge as it relates to every profession in every field, everywhere, ever (ok, maybe that’s a little too much).

The two concepts that professors should have figuratively beaten into your skull, regardless of what the course syllabus spelled out, are how to think creatively and how to think critically. The combination of these thought processes bear responsibility for our collective future (that’s heavy, maybe too heavy, but it’s true). As a world, we are going to have to be extremely creative in coming up with new ways to support a larger population while witnessing the automation and mechanization of more jobs. This doesn’t guarantee a net loss of future jobs but it does require a lot of thought about how we’re going to make our economy work for everyone, not just the lucky “makers“.

Critical thought is something we’ve always done, it’s just that we aren’t told we’re thinking critically when we are young. The idea of observing, reflecting, thinking about the how and why (analyzing), and then taking that knowledge and forming new ideas and sharing them, is a complex way of describing what four-year-olds do at the beach. They look at a sandcastle and then go about figuring out how to construct their own. And while they’re at it, they often try some new-fangled engineering fete, fail, and move forward. With all the knowledge accumulated over the previous 14 – 20 school-years, post-secondary graduates should have a pretty good idea of how to do this. The real challenge is making sure that they are working across sectors, industries, and geographic locales. Combining creative and critical thought is not new but it should be practiced more liberally so that together we will be able to solve just about any problem we encounter (still working out how to combat Nyquil packaging).

Now Hear This!

Don’t take the bad advice of the “greatest” graduation speakers. “Go[ing] confidently in the direction of your dreams”, “Follow[ing] your passion”, etc., etc., is great… if your dreams include being a math teacher in rural America, lots of call for that particular position. However, if you dream of reading Shakespeare while noshing fish & chips and quaffing a Tallgrass Brown Ale, at the Anchor & Hope, in the Southwark neighborhood of London (yes, the same neighborhood where the Globe Theatre resides), then I might suggest you adjust your navigational settings to something a little more realistic. Like teaching Shakespeare, and Morrison, and Ellison, and Cisneros, and Fitzgerald, to students who will, generally speaking, not show much interest in the subject matter (which is not to say that they won’t learn anything, just don’t expect much when teaching certain books). But that’s ok; because there are students that will be engaged and their lives will be changed by the work you do and the bonds that you build with them. And, because teaching provides a steady wage (not as much as it should, but steady). Of course, if you are independently wealthy or have parents who are willing to bankroll your efforts to achieve Nirvana, etc., no, the other nirvana, then by all means, do it up; and bring a friend if you feel so inclined (back to the kindergarten knowledge—sharing).

I’m not advising anyone to become a disinterested automaton, mindlessly working to increase profits and productivity. Dream; Dream BigLive with Passion; imagine SeReNdIpItOuS events, do all the things that provide your spirit with the fuel it needs to carry on. But, remember, life is a lot easier when you can pay your rent on time, eat regularly, buy seasonally appropriate clothing, and have a little “back-up” in the bank, for emergency situations. So, if at all possible, find work that pays a living wage, appreciates you, helps to advance your skill set while dropping new knowledge into your noggin, and encourages you to be creative in your processes. Then, each day, use your remaining hours to work on your dreams and passions.

Lastly, here are a few pieces of advice that you probably didn’t learn in school but are of equal import.

  1. When watching/listening to a story that involves people making decisions that you don’t agree with, it’s good to remember that while one may not agree with the action(s) taken by said person/group, those actions, placed in the proper context, can be understood.
  2.  “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all; the opposite of love’s indifference“.
  3.  Sometimes you need to “Take a Walk. Not necessarily to Bolivia or even across state lines, just get out and walk, clear the head, breathe, give yourself an opportunity to think.
  4. Whenever you are considering new laws, rules, et al. (in any setting), think about who’s not at the table. Too often we witness the implementation of new policies that haven’t been properly vetted. Key stakeholders are left out of the negotiations and therefore they don’t have any real connection to the new legislation. You can’t blame somebody for ignoring a policy if they had no voice in the process.
  5. Take a road trip if you have the means; “Talladega“, Baltimore, Kansas City, El Segundo, or anywhere else that you haven’t yet ventured. Meet new people, try new foods and see America’s beauty from a different vantage point.
  6. Sometimes you’ve gotta let loose. However, it is advisable, during these escapades, to have a trustworthy friend nearby, so as to keep you from doing anything that may prevent future employment opportunities from occurring.

Best of Luck and Congratulations, as you turn the page and step into a new chapter in your life.

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Best practices can lead to great outcomes.

 

 

Ideas, not-Resolutions, to Make 2016 Great!

Resolutions come like waves upon the shore, at this time of year. There are endless ideas of what to do, how to do it, how to make it last, and how not to give up, give in, or give out. I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution; I had a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t make it to the gym after a couple of weeks, wouldn’t want to live a life devoid of donuts, ice cream, and beer, or couldn’t contemplate writing down all of the things I wanted to accomplish in the coming year—knowing it was an exercise in futility. What I do enjoy is reading other people’s lists of favorite things.

Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.
Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.

Top 10 lists (or top 20, top 5, etc.) are one of my favorite things to peruse when I have a few moments of spare time. Occasionally they are titled wrong (maybe, My Favorite Craft Beers would have been more appropriate) or seem way off base for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they are (in my opinion) spot on; but most often, I know far less about the list than the person/people who compiled it and I just enjoy learning about other folks’ favorite: restaurants/bars, state parks, tailgate traditions, music, bicycles, scenic drives, wines/beers, bad t.v. et al.  I’m sure that New Years resolutions and lists of things to: accomplish, avoid, start, end, learn, unlearn, and whatever else we can think of, will be read by millions of people over the next month. So as a kind of tangent to a “Best” list, I offer you 50 ways to make 2016 Great.

  1. Use common sense. This may be obvious in thought but that doesn’t always translate in deed. See # 2.
  2. Dress for the weather. This is unsolicited advice for anyone who is too cool to wear a hat when it’s -6° with a windchill of -23° (this applies to adults as well as teens).
  3. Try a new cuisine. Be it Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, or Mediterranean, try it, you’ll probably like it. And if you don’t, well, at least you won’t have to wonder anymore.
  4. Be really nice to a complete stranger. It makes them feel good—and nervous, simultaneously.
  5. Exercise your brain. Engage in civil debates/conversations with those who hold views with which you disagree. Try to understand why they feel the way they do and then explain your stance and how you’ve come to believe it. You may be surprised to find you have much more in common than you thought.
  6. Exercise your heart-Part 1. Walking, biking, swimming, x-country skiing, skateboarding, movement of some sort for some extended period of time at least a couple of times a week. And a glass of red wine each day doesn’t hurt.
  7. Help raise a generation of girls that are more concerned with wavelengths than weight, more interested in philosophy than hair styles, more connected to their community than to glorified images that are too often not representative of reality, and more invested in their social well-being than they are in the misinformation provided by the “experts” in the media and magazine trades. Girls’ obsession with body image and appearance is not healthy for them, psychologically, physically, or emotionally. Praise girls for their intelligence, strength, curiosity, independence, courage, determination, forthrightness, astuteness, wit, cunning, and perseverance. And tell them they are beautiful; not because of outward appearances but owing to the fact that they are wonderful & amazing & kind, & compassionate, & thoughtful. Reinforce, daily, the attributes that are truly the most important in the grand scheme of life.
  8. Laugh. You may need the assistance of Wanda Sykes, Richard Pryor, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, or other comics, but don’t let that stop you. Laughing is an excellent stress reliever.
  9. Exercise your heart-Part 2. Love unconditionally. Don’t ask for or expect Love in return, just Love for the benefit of giving Love. It feels good.
  10.  Splurge on something you really enjoy. This doesn’t require the expenditure of hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you love coffee, grab a cup of Dogwood (Minneapolis), High Grounds (Baltimore), or Deeper Roots (Cincinnati), sit, relax, and savor it; be present for the experience.
  11. Jump around. You don’t need to be at a Wisconsin Badgers football game to do this. Just don’t do it in the middle of a really important meeting.
  12. Make fun of yourself. Nobody has ever achieved perfection (not even the Holiest of Holy figures) so why not make light of something you did that was not very bright. We are human, therefore we occasionally screw up. So long as you learn from your mistakes, it’s easy to look back and laugh.
  13. Spend a day, or three, without a screen. This includes p.c.s, laptops, phones, nooks, i-pads, kindles, apple watches, t.v.s and everything else. It’s quite interesting to suddenly notice the everyday events that you’ve been missing for years.
  14. Play a game. Even if you don’t particularly care for games or competition, find a few friends and play a game of Yahtzee, Scattegories, or Sheepshead.
  15. Meet a neighbor. This is happening less and less as we become more and more polarized and concerned with privacy. We isolate ourselves from anyone we don’t meet at work, church, or school. Who knows, you may live next to a brewer (bonus), baker (bonus), or Marine (double bonus).
  16. Go to your local bookseller (not Amazon) or library and ask an expert for a recommendation. Reading exercises the brain and provides the reader with new ideas and new ways to view the world.
  17. Shop small & local. Skip the superstores and get to know the business owners, and employees, at the little quaint/quirky places that make a community what it is.
  18. Make something delicious and drop it off at the Police Station or Fire Department. They work hard for the good of the community and don’t often receive accolades for their daily grind. Additionally, our society tends to forget that for every misguided act by a First Responder, a thousand outstanding acts are accomplished without any acknowledgement. Whether in Farmington, New Hampshire, Minnesota, or New Mexico, or anyplace not named Farmington, show them some Love; and while you’re there, get to know them by name, they’re part of your community.
  19. Volunteer at a school, nursing home, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or on a community project that is providing hope to all those who are experiencing difficulties.
  20. Dance. Fast or slow, the Whip/Nae Nae, the Dougie,  choreographed, or free-style, Celtic or Krump, two-step or Step Up (2). Don’t worry about looking foolish, just have fun.
  21. Make a card for someone. Birthday; Get Well; Congratulations! Whatever.
  22. Learn something new. The options for on-line learning are seemingly endless. Many are free or low cost and learning helps exercise your brain. Other options include: read a “how-to” book; volunteer at a business; or take up a new hobby; and once you learn the basics, practice, practice, practice.
  23. Make a plan to incorporate better work-life/school-life balance into your schedule.
  24. Go to a gallery opening or art museum. If you aren’t sure that you like art, google something that you like and add “art” to the end. Like, “fishing art“. Use the results to find an artist or gallery that is nearby or coming to your area.
  25. Learn about the issues & candidates for the 2016 election. If you choose not to vote, you give up your voice in the process (which is one way to communicate your belief that the politicians don’t connect with you). It’s not simply whether your chosen candidates/ballot measures win or lose, it’s about engaging with society and keeping democracy alive and well (even if we still use the electoral college for the top office).
  26. VOTE.
  27. Donate to a food shelf. There are organizations that supply human food (Baltimore, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Orange County, Tyler, Lexington, Albany, Honolulu, Jacksonville, & Rusk County), to name a few, and places that supply pet food; do what you can to help.
  28. Help create and/or change policy. Engage with your elected representatives. Write a letter or email, call, advocate for a cause, help raise money, engage others in conversations and make your case.
  29. Teach someone how to do something. While much of our nation seems to have forgotten the importance of passing on information via individualized learning (apprenticeships, coaching & cultivation, guidance, training, whatever one chooses to call it), it’s hasn’t yet been erased from our collective memory. Help someone, young, old or inbetween, learn how to do the basics of a job. Look at it as an opportunity to carry your legacy forward.
  30. Thank Service Women & Men and Veterans, whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’ve served, you know the deal. If not, be thankful for those who have.
  31. Find out the history of your community. It’s good to know why your city/county chose the figures they did, for commemorative statues and plaques. It’s also fun to learn about the immigrants/groups that first called your locale home; and learn about the events that have since shaped that place.
  32. “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.” Mizuta Masahide (Japanese Poet: 1657-1723) was telling people to find something good in whatever tragedy comes upon us. This doesn’t apply to every bad thing that happens. Some events have no upside—none. But many do.
  33. Don’t text or use social media et al. while driving. (refer back to # 1)
  34. Sports should be undertaken as a means of improving: physical fitness, discipline, hand-eye/foot-eye coordination, working as a team, camaraderie, & building character. Vince Lombardi’s adage about winning not being everything… only applies to athletes who get paid to play the game. When it comes to youth sports, specifically the highly organized type, try to remember that your child’s odds of making it as a pro are 1 in a really big number (#s vary depending on the sport). So encourage children to have fun, learn, and most importantly, understand the realities of competition (some kids are bigger, faster, stronger—due to genetics, drive, opportunity, & access). Likewise, parents should know when to back off and let their kids focus on other activities. It’s just a game.
  35. Don’t “Just Do It”. Think about the potential action and the consequences of said action, before engaging in it.
  36. Keep everything in perspective. Our world has enough drama. The person who didn’t clean out the microwave, make a new pot of coffee, or unjam the copier, didn’t do it to spite you personally. They are just not thoughtful or may be pre-occupied with a deadline, a family emergency, financial uncertainty, medical difficulty, etc., etc.
  37. Keep “context” at the forefront of every situation. Context is the main idea that is missing from so many highly charged arguments. If two people are talking about social security, one being a retired teacher, the other being a 30 year-old investment banker, they may talk in terms of “benefits” and “entitlements”, respectively. If they were to clarify why each uses the language they do, their conversation may be less heated and more productive. Politicians and each party’s base are often guilty of not understanding (and not caring about) the context before engaging in rhetoric.
  38. Rock the boat—just don’t capsize it. When you encounter situations that are obviously not in keeping with maintaining civility in the workplace or society at large, or are undermining the public’s confidence in the company/org/gov’t/partnerships, point it out and work to right the wrong. This is not easy, but then, what worth doing is? Recruit friends, co-workers, like-minded folk, to help (strength in numbers). Whether it be a loudmouth who is always injecting their thought into “a-to-b” conversations, equity in funding schools and programs, or gross negligence on the part of upper management, Do[ing] the Right Thing will make the community more civil, the organization more trusted, and the day-to-day routines more manageable.
  39. Re: -build; -use; -new; -cycle. Until we come up with a better way to use trash, we should try to cut down on it. Environmentalists shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with the long-term viability of our planet.
  40. Do things right the first time. When we half-ass a project, in order to spend time on another project, we often end up with two half-assed projects. This is: a) non-sensical; b) not efficient; & c) ends up creating additional work because we have to fix both projects.
  41. Strengthen your spirit. This might mean doing something you’ve been avoiding, because it’s not fun, or really time consuming, but once it’s done, your spirit is likely to feel a boost because the “job” is no longer hanging over your head.
  42. Support a local non-profit/charity. You might only have a few dollars to spare, or you might have a few thousand, either way, help out a charity that speaks to you. Lots of smaller charities are doing great work on budgets that are a fraction of what the United Way has.
  43. Love Yourself. This can be really difficult when things aren’t going well personally, professionally, spiritually… but remember, nobody is perfect. Give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing for self, family, work, and move forward with a renewed passion for life.
  44. Be nice to everybody (until they give you reasons not to be nice). Even people that are a-holes most of the time like it when someone is nice. We don’t know what others are going through so try to be nice for as long as possible. When you can no longer be nice, try to walk away and/or ignore the rude/hateful/angry/demeaning/childlike behaviors. If they persist, a quick splash of ice water in the face usually shuts them down.
  45. Be somebody’s “bootstraps”. The fallacy of pulling one’s self up by his/her bootstraps is alive and well. The problem with it is two-fold: 1) Nobody has ever gotten from “here” to “there” entirely via solo effort; 2) Some people don’t have “boots”, let alone the straps to pull them up. Bootstraps, in real terms, are the people that provide the education, opportunities, and access required to do anything in life. Parents/guardians, teachers, mentors, employers, co-workers, friends & extended family, and sometimes perfect strangers, play a role in helping us achieve success. The amount of success we achieve is determined by two connected notions: 1) our individual idea of success; & more importantly 2) the circumstances into which we were born. If you have the opportunity to help a person in any way, do so. Be a part of somebody’s “bootstraps” and see the difference (R.W. Emerson) you can make.
  46. Consider others’ feelings. The owner of the NFL team from Washington refuses to change the name/mascot of his team. He says that the term is used out of respect for Native Americans. And while it’s true that some First Peoples may not take offense with the name, many do. If you still aren’t sure about this and think it’s just being politically correct, imagine this scenario: People start calling your spouse/partner “ass-face”. Not because s/he likes the name, just because said people think it’s fitting. Some even say, “it’s a term of endearment and said out of respect for his/her smart-ass comments” (which doesn’t make any sense to you or your spouse). You really hate the name but can’t convince others to stop using it because they think it’s ok. The situation in Washington D.C. is different in-so-far as it pertains to several million people being offended, as opposed to one.
  47. Eat healthy. A lot of healthy foods can be expensive (almonds, wild-caught fish, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh cherries) or kind of expensive (granola, coconuts, blueberries, leaner cuts of meat, chia seeds, olives) but many aren’t (avocadoes, broccoli, peppers, onions, garlic, oatmeal, spinach, brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes, milk, apples, eggs, fresh pineapple, ginger, & legumes of all sorts).
  48. If ever you are occupying a space that sits more than 10 feet off the ground and you overhear someone remark that they believe the “structural integrity of the edifice may have been compromised…” make your way to the nearest exit as quickly as possible, especially if they look like they know what they are talking about.
  49. Support efforts to end domestic violence
  50. Hold your own, know your name, & go your own way. (Jason Mraz-Details in the Fabric). If you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, figure that out. Don’t let others determine the arc of your existence. Some pretty wise Greeks told us to “Know Thyself“. If we spend our lives constantly conforming to others desires/beliefs, we are not truly living, we are merely surviving. I’m not saying “grab life by the horns and take control of everything around you”, rather, understand the person you are and embrace that being. Work on improving the aspects that you are unhappy with but don’t attempt to make sweeping changes to the self that resides within.

I hope you are able to take away a few ideas for the upcoming year and those acts/concepts make the day-to-day better in some small way.

May 2016 be Healthy, Happy, and filled with Wonderful Surprises.

Salute!

Woo-Hoo New Years!
Woo-Hoo New Year’s is here!

Recharging Stations:

Modernity has ushered in the age of “Being On”. This new sense of being ever-present (without actually being physically present) has created a society that is losing touch with serenity and what it means to truly relax. Some say it’s inevitable, that we do what we need to do in order to keep up with expectations, whether real or perceived. Others seem to believe that “work-life integration” is the new trend and that we should strive to incorporate individual responsibility into our daily lives (read: “exercise, nutrition, downtime, family/friends” (Battelle, 2015)); which may work great for entrepreneurs or anyone who is not expected to show-up to the job site, but leaves out the vast majority of the workforce. I don’t believe it’s inevitable; nor should we have to integrate work and life in order to maximize the productivity of each. Finding balance between what we do to sustain ourselves/families financially and what we do to maintain our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, should be a top priority. If you love your job, your co-workers, your daily commute, you may require less balancing time, but you still need to recharge your inner-peace and heart, lungs, and muscle fibers.

Krista Tippet’s show, On Being, recently featured (4 June 2015) a discussion entitled “The Art of Stillness”. During her interview with Pico Iyer, a journalist and writer who has studied the idea of tranquility of the mind and body, they talked about recharging stations. This probably brings to mind a charging dock for your electronic devices, at home, or an airport, or work. Pico, however, likes to think about recharging the body and the mind, which has an electrical current of its own. The body’s grid can’t be recharged through traditional chargers plugged into a wall, but it can be revitalized by being present, in the moment. This kind of presence (mindfulness) is very different from being present in the digital world (degrees of mindlessness, multi-tasking, and information overload, the three not being necessarily mutually exclusive).

Presence; nothing more, nothing less.
Presence; nothing more, nothing less.

The scales that display balance between work and life, or school and life, have tipped heavily in favor of work/school. There are many thoughts as to why and how this change happened, all relevant to some extent. But more important is the issue of how to address it. We can’t just say, “f*#k it, I’m going to spend less time engaged in my livelihood,” and we can’t add hours to the day. What we can do is prioritize what’s important. Placing “self-recharging” high on the list is the best way to ensure that one engages in this activity regularly.

Mindfulness, as demonstrated by Jack.
Mindfulness, as demonstrated by Jack.

 

Multi-tasking: not mindful.
Multi-tasking: not mindful.

Taking time to unwind, relax, chill, whatever you want to call it, is healthy for the mind, the soul, and the body. “Unplug” from everything and find your own recharging station. Read a newspaper or a book, an actual ink & paper book, not on a screen. Savor a great cup of coffee or tea early in the morning, while listening to the birds and watching the world awaken. Find a time and place that lets you step away from all that is happening and just be. We probably won’t achieve nirvana, not in this lifetime anyway, but the simple act of existing, and nothing more, on occasion, will help make life more manageable, more enjoyable, and more serene.

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