Making a Difference

Social Media is an effective way of spreading information. It allows us to reach a lot of people quickly. And a lot of folks have expressed their opinion about the practice of separating refugee children from their families at the US border. 

I understand and share the outrage, sadness and terror that folks are expressing. I appreciate that folks have used their voice on social media to express this. 

And there is a point at which it becomes self-indulgent. Collectively, we’ve passed that point. There comes a point where expressing our opinions on social media becomes a replacement for taking action that may be more effective. It makes us feel better. It gives us a false feeling of accomplishment. 

We’re seeking new and unique ways to express our opinions, to prove our views are indeed the correct ones. Sharing the latest columnist’s fresh perspective on why this or that viewpoint is indeed the correct one makes us feel good. It makes us FEEL like we’ve made a difference. 

When you are on side “A” and you share a perspective that’s proving “Side A” is correct, you do two things: 

  1. Make your friends who are on “Side A” feel validated. You alos feel validated when your friends of the same perspective agree with you. You entrench yourself and your allies in their perspective. 
  2. You make your opponents defensive. You make them dig their heels in deeper, stronger and with more vigilance. You further deepen the divide between the two sides. 

There is absolutely a time and a place for this. 

There is a also a time and place for other action. 

We can’t rely on our elected leaders and the broken and divisive two-party system to lead change. The two-party system is a self-perpetuating system of divisiveness. 

We have to step up and be the leadership that our Democrats and Republicans fail to be. We have to take the brave and bold steps necessary to lead humanity in a new direction. A new direction of healing wounds, opening new conversations and creating new relationships. 

Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela all know this. The way to make change requires sacrifice, courage and uncomfortable openness. 

It’s time to pull back from the social media sharing and do things that are harder and more effective. 

Start civil conversations with people you disagree with. Speak from your heart. Be open to understanding new ideas. Be so open that it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to agree, and you don’t have to excuse behavior that violates your moral values. But these are the hard things that are required to create a new, more unified world. 

Photo by Siddhant Soni on Unsplash

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I Quit Using Straws and My Life Fell Apart

Some entrepreneurs have invented something they believe will keep 560 straws per person out of the landfill each year. They started a kickstarter with a goal of twelve thousand bucks and have raised, as of today, nearly 1.9 million. 

Something is terribly wrong. 

Let’s look at this from a broader perspective; one that considers history. The straw was invented in 1888 by Marvin Stone. In 1937, the bendy straw was invented by Joseph B. Friedman. In the 1960’s, straws became plastic instead of paraffin-coated paper. I learned all that here

Now let’s pull back a bit. Humans have been drinking (with and without straws) for about 200,000 years (as long as we’ve been in existence). We’ve had straws for about 120 years. They’ve been plastic for about 60 years. We know that this petroleum-based product (plastic) basically never goes away. That’s a huge problem. 

Now we have a culture with an expectation that every time you enjoy a beverage, you need a disposable device that never goes away to consume it. In recognition of this conundrum, we gave nearly 1.9 million bucks to some folks who made a reusable straw. 

A reusable straw is better than throwing one away every time you have a drink. But, the whole thing remains problematic because it reinforces the idea that caused the problem in the first place: That there is a PROBLEM with drinking that needs to be solved. 

When this occurred to me a few weeks ago, I decided to stop using straws and see if my life fell apart. Surprisingly, it didn’t. In fact, it was enriched because I discovered that not only do I not need straws  (not to sound too cocky, but I already knew that), I also don’t need lids on my drinks. And the best part is the freedom that comes from realizing how little we actually need in our world to be happy. I’m also now more congruent with my own beliefs and that I’ve eliminated the need for another item in my life and hopefully starting a bit of a conversation. 

I’ve found that freedom comes not from having more, but needing less. Surprisingly opposite the more common notion that having more makes you more free. 

We don’t need reusable straws. We need to need less.

If you spent 5 minutes reading this, 5 children died because they didn’t have access to clean drinking water. 1.9 million bucks (the current total on Kickstarter for these asinine reusable straws) would (according to a website) build 237 wells in Africa. 

Photo by James Aldrin on Unsplash

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Acceptance

Worry, anxiety, suffering. Over and over and over. How do I make it go away? How do I make it stop? How do I? How do I? How do I? 

Acceptance is the worst enemy of pain. What if it just is and that’s totally OK. What if it’s just totally fine to be worried, to be anxious, to suffer? 

What if you just stop the worry? Stop the anxiety? Stop the fear and just accept. Just accept everything as it is and for what it is. 

Afraid you’re going to run out of money? Just accept running out of money. ***

Afraid you’re going to be alone? Just accept being alone. ***

Afraid you’re losing someone you love? Just accept the loss. ***

Or what I you keep being fearful, having anxiety, keep worrying? And completely accept it? You can’t. 

You can’t worry, be scared or suffer when you are in acceptance. It’s impossible. 

True, real acceptance that flows through your body like a river from head to tow removes all worry, all suffering, all fear. 

Accept. 

Accept and Love. 

*** INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Acceptance does not mean not doing anything about the possible circumstance that’s causing the worry, fear and anxiety. It means making yourself as complete as possible so as to enable you to be as effective as possible at dealing with the circumstance.

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/liberty-feel-gender-identity-2262513/

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The Voices In Your Head

You know what I’m talking about. That voice in your head. That voice that’s telling you how to wash the dishes, how to eat your food, how to brush your teeth, how to act in a certain situation. It’s always there, always telling you what to do and how to do it. 

You don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to do what it wants you to do. You want to do your own thing. You want to do it your way!  And you want to tell it to fuck off! 

Your teeth clench, your shoulders tense up, and you breath harder because you’re tired of being told what to do. 

You start slamming things around. Muttering under your breath….. 

“I’ll do it my own goddamn way, bitch.”

“I’m doing it my way, asshole.”

You explain to this voice why your way is better. Why their way is wrong and why your way is right. 

This goes on… and on… and on…. Perhaps constantly. Perhaps the intensity is greater or less in certain situations but generally speaking, it’s there and it’s usually annoying as fuck. 

The voice is always there, but who is it? Is it a mother, a father, a sibling, an ex, a friend, a boss? Perhaps it changes over time. It may be one person way day, another a different day. But usually, it’s the same person. 

How do you make it stop? 

RECOGNIZE IT

Recognize that some person from your life has entered your brain in a way that causes them to nearly constantly ring in your head. Recognize that someone has influenced you in a profound, but not constructive way. Recognize that you’ve kind of lost control. 

If you read this far, you probably get it. You get what Im saying. So, now you get to take back control. Recognizing you’ve lost control is kind of hard and rather annoying but it’s an important step. Just do it. It’s gonna help you get past it. 

Notice that it’s taking up a crapton of energy. It’s using a lot of energy in your brain to constantly argue with this person in your head. Its wearing you out, making you angry and sucking energy energy from funner things. 

TELL IT TO SHUT UP.

You’ve now recognized that it’s there, in control, and taking up valuable energy, so you can now tell it to go away. 

It probably won’t go away quickly, it may take a while, but be patient. The moment you recognize it’s there, you begin to take away it’s power. Try talking to friends about it. Explain to them that you have this voice and they probably won’t say, ”You’re nuts”, instead they will probably say,

“OMG, I have that voice too, only its my ____!” 

Talking about it with others is very helpful. it gives you a little control by casting more light on the voice and also helps the other person deal with their voice. 

These little bitches suck, but take away a bit of their power and they’ll fade away. If you’d like, share who the voice in your head is in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

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Being Yourself

Every day, you get up, go out into the world and do what you do. But who’s doing it? Who is going out there and doing the thing you do? Is it you? Or is it a person you’ve carefully created to be sure the world will love you? A person you’ve created to be sure the world won’t hurt you? To make sure the world won’t reject you?

Probably. 

Every day, we step out the door as someone who is’t real. Someone who isn’t really us. We go out into the world as a fake. A phony. 

We do it to protect ourselves.

But we quickly realize, this is slow death. Not being who we uniquely are kills us — slowly and painfully. Becoming genuinely happy and contributing to the world in our best way means chipping off all the stuff that isn’t really us… and be left with who we truly are. 

And that means we have to do one really hard and scary thing:

Be honest. 

Being honest with your friends, family, coworkers, and other people is hard. But the brutal truth is that it’s the easy part. Easy compared to the to the biggest, nastiest, meanest, hairiest monster you’ll ever have to face: 

Yourself. 

Being honest with yourself is the scariest part. 

What if I’m no good? What if I don’t really matter at all? What if? What if? What if? 

It takes a long time and a lot of living of life to get this very simple point…. and many people don’t get it it before they reach their death bed, but it’s the only thing that really answers the “what if” question: 

You actually ARE good enough just like you are.

Even if you don’t get out of bed today, even if you get nothing done, even if you make no money, even if you make no progress, even if you help nobody, even if you do nothing…. No matter what…. you’re good enough just like you are. 

Even if you don’t matter (you do), even if nobody likes you (somebody does), even if nobody thinks your creations are any good (they are), even if you fart out crappy blog posts (they’re kind of good, actually… maybe?), even if you completely suck at life…. you’re good enough. 

It is ONLY from that understanding that you can actually become what you are truly capable of. 

Knowing that (and it’s doubtful that reading this is going to convince you, so you’re going to have to keep working at it, since every single human being on this planet struggles with this to some degree every single day), you can finally….. 

finally….

finally….

BE HONEST

…. so that you can be who you really are…. yourself. The alternative is a slow, miserable death. 

BE YOU. 

Photo Credit: https://www.splitshire.com/young-man-headshot/

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When You’re Struggling

We all struggle and we all agree that when we’re struggling, we usually either learn something or the process gets us prepared for the next thing that is usually bigger and better. When we struggle, we develop some skills, knowledge, perspective, or maybe just experience the contrast we need to enjoy the less strugglesome times even more. 

If that’s the case, why do we view struggle so negatively? Why can’t we be excited about struggle? Why can’t we wake up, feel like shit and say:

“YES! This struggle is real and it’s what I need right now and it’s going to result in something great.” 

If we actually embraced (we already know) how much our struggles help us, we’d be excited to struggle. We’d say: 

“Shit yea! I’m fucking broke! Not even sure how I’m going to pay this month’s bills. Something AMAZING is going to come of this!”

We would recognize that something super, super important is coming along because of this struggle. 

We’d exclaim: 

“My friend just totally screwed me over! Boy, this hurts like a motherfucker, so it MUST mean that something positively unbelievable is coming along! I’m going to learn something REALLY important from this!” 

Our struggles prepare us for bigger, better things to come in life. Things that we can’t even know what they are yet, much less how wonderful they will be. 

The other day, I messaged a friend to see how he was doing. I started to type, “I hope your having a wonderful day…” then paused. It didn’t feel right. I thought…. hmmm… maybe a wonderful day isn’t what he needs today. Maybe he need to have a shitty day so he can learn something from it? So, I changed it to, “I hope your having an amazing day… or a shitty day, whatever you need to have.” Not many people would understand, but fortunately, he did. Because he laughed, and agreed. 

Years of meditation and questioning everything I‘ve ever thought true have allowed me to maintain a level of peace even when my emotions are not what I’d prefer them to be — most of the time. 

If you’re struggling, remember that whatever this is … it’s preparing you for something amazing. Think you can change how you react next time you’re struggling? I haven’t, but it sure is a refreshing way to look at struggle.

Bonus points: Hug somebody who’s struggling. 

Featured Image Credit: Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

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How to Live Better

I’ve studied a lot about human behavior. It started with a self-help addiction when I was miserable and stuck in my corporate job, a relationship and a life that wasn’t the life I knew I could have. I had everything I was “supposed to” want, but I knew something wasn’t right — I knew there had to be a way to live better.

The Problem

I don’t believe that any of us are “meant” or “destined” to be or do anything. Each of us has to make a decision about what we want to become. When I was living a life that was a series of sacrifices to support things I didn’t want, I was miserable.

Over the course of my journey, I’ve worked my ass off to make my life what I KNOW it can be, and along the way, I’ve learned a lot about how to be happy. We all want money, some want fame, most want to be liked, but we all just want to lay our head on the pillow at night and feel like we had a good day, go to sleep happy and excited to get up the next day.

Happiness never, ever comes from achievement. Never. But we constantly pursue achievement believing it will create happiness. And it never, ever works. So we ignorantly believe that if we could just achieve more, we’d be happier.

That’s just like a drug addict. After a while, alcohol doesn’t give you the same feeling, so you move on to something else. Then something else, and on and on. We publicly condemn, and even outlaw drug use, but nobody talks about the exact same cycle that makes a majority of humans on this earth live a miserable or (at best) mediocre life.

How to Live More

What we need is to actually act IN ALIGNMENT with becoming the person we want to become. Is what you are doing right now moving you in that direction? Right now, your reading this blog post, but what about the next thing you do? Is it going to move you in the direction you want to go?

Don’t worry if you don’t exactly where you want to go. You just have to ask yourself if the things you are doing every minute, hour, day and week, are moving you in a direction you REALLY WANT to go. Whatever it is, it doesn’t even have to work out the way you expect it to. It just has to move you in that direction.

It’s not really that complicated. It’s not necessarily about figuring out some grandiose life purpose. You just have to want something and take steps that move you toward it. Some things are no-brainers — maybe you want more money, a husband, a wife, a better job… whatever. You want something but if your actions aren’t aligned with ANYTHING, you won’t be happy.

You can always find peace inside yourself by meditating and eliminating outside attachment, but to really thrive, you need more. You need to take actions that are aligned with what you really want out of life.

What we generally do in our world is to accept mediocrity and then take actions that move us towards more mediocrity. It’s not about the result; it’s about the actions that you take to move toward something greater.

Image Credit: Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

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Let’s Stop Pretending to Know Stuff

What’s wrong with not knowing?

We need to know — know why we get up in the morning, why the sky is blue, why we’re here and what the meaning of life is.

And that’s the reason we’ve landed on the moon, studied galaxies far away and cured deadly diseases.

We’re good at figuring things out, but sometimes we get a little bit full of ourselves. We think we know everything.

When our knowledge runs out, we make shit up to explain what we don’t know. For example, your friend doesn’t return your phone call, so you make up a reason; she’s mad at you.

You spouse is late coming home from work. It’s not like him to be late; obviously he’s having an affair. Or dead in a ditch.

You soon learn that your friend’s phone was broken and your husband was stuck in a late meeting, but what about the bigger stuff?

We know a whole lot of stuff, but we don’t know everything. We know that when you drop a coffee cup on a tile floor, it breaks. It has to do with gravity, the molecular makeup of the ceramic, density of the floor, whatever, I don’t really understand it, but we humans have basically figured out why the cup breaks. That’s easy.

But everything isn’t easy. What happens when we die? Everyone has a theory, but the fact is that we don’t know. We really, really don’t know. I’m not sure we even have the proper perspective to even begin to understand what happens after we die.

We are good at figuring things out, but if we don’t admit that we don’t know, we’re screwed.

Photo Credit: Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

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The Real Problem With Political Correctness

Let me be clear, I say, “happy holidays” because I want to include my friends who don’t celebrate Christmas, not because I feel a need to follow some prescribed way of talking. And for those who feel compelled to knock the idea of political correctness, just say what the fuck you want — that’s how you knock the idea, not by knocking the idea, you see?

But none of that’s really important, what’s really important is how the idea of political correctness has actually damaged this country. Let’s get down to that.

While I was emailing with my aunt recently about the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, she said, “It’s like nothing has changed since the 70’s.” So true and so frustrating.

Speaking as a white guy who grew up in an all-white, rural suburb, racism is real. It’s very real and always has been. We’ve definitely made progress since the civil rights movement, but here’s the problem. We’ve made progress on the surface, but not underneath. The progress we’ve made has been in policy and perception, but not in reality.

policy and perception, but not in reality… That really sucks.

“Political correctness” has created a situation where we’ve just wallpapered over the real, underlying issues. Policy has created practical change on the surface, but is resented by some because they fundamentally have not changed.

This fundamental change of the underlying issues is what will lead to lasting. The real challenge to this is that we’re going to have to start having a very different conversation and everyone is going to have to admit they are wrong in some way, large or small.

Photo Credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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