Regrets

I remember listening to the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra as a young boy. The opening lyrics to the second stanza start out “Regrets, I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention”. Maybe this is one of the great hindrances in our lives we seldom seem to address. How do we handle our regrets? Let’s start as we do many times by defining what regret is: “A feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment, over something that has happened or been done.” Maybe we could define it as a memory of something we wish could be redone. The truth is we all have regrets and some are easier to live with than others. I want to take a look at a partial list of things people regret according to a poll in Forbes magazine. If you would like to read the full article here is the link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/10/18/the-25-biggest-regrets-in-life-what-are-yours/#112823426488. I will not be addressing all 25 items but just a few select ones to hopefully inspire us to Listen. Think. Act.

 

  1. Working too much at the expense of family and friendships.

Working is a part of life, you might say a very big part of life. We might view work in a different light than others depending on our family history and the early years of life. Some people will tie a great deal of their self-worth to their work, others might see it as a necessary evil. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, most of us probably agree it is a necessity. I have observed everything from workaholics to the hippies throughout my life. It is amazing how polar opposites work right beside one another every day. Do you identify with either of these two or somewhere in between? This question could provoke another question, “What do you value most?” People can experience regret when work takes an inordinate amount of their time. This time thief replaces picnics, walks on the beach and occasionally vacations. Sometimes this is necessary, other times it is self-induced. So why do we feel the gnawing pain of regret?  I referenced the “Hippies” in the earlier part of this paragraph. Most of us have a stereotypical view of this carefree individual. Yet, there is a part of their lifestyle we might envy if we are honest with ourselves. The hippie seems to be easily pleased, therefore needs less in life to survive. I talk to my children often about balance in life. It is tempting when we find something new such as a job, hobby or relationship to pour the lion’s share of our time into our “new found love”. Often, in the future, we feel regret for letting things go, ignoring relationships or just becoming too self-absorbed in this particular case with our work. There are many things that vie for our attention on a daily basis. Our jobs are a necessary part of life, just guard against letting it consume all of your time. We ignore family and friends to our own detriment. Do you feel the regret of working too much?

 

  1. Standing up to bullies in school and in life.

This is a shift from the first topic but one that affects many people. A great deal of attention in recent years has focused on the subject of bullying. Most of the bullying conversations have been centered around “Cyber Bullying”. Social media has provided many benefits and simultaneously ushered in a new era for potential bad behavior. If you had to describe a bully, what would your definition include? Is someone that likes to debate a bully? Is someone that possesses confidence in themselves a bully? Have we distorted the characterization so ridiculously that bullying could actually be anyone that disagrees with you openly? I looked up the government website on bullying and pulled some information for this blog from the following site https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html. The government describes bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involve a real or perceived power imbalance. Of course, this can happen to anyone at any age but is primarily experienced with children.  Have any of you experienced being bullied in your childhood? For some people, this memory not only invokes feelings of regret but also anger. ” I should have stood up for myself” is a regret you might feel, and even verbalize to other people. The first point I would like to make about regret is how powerless we are to change the past. We all know hindsight is 20/20, and regret can bring feelings of frustration and discontent. The first thing we can do with regret is to embrace the life lessons they teach us. You may have been bullied, which is a terrible thing for anyone to experience. Do not allow this to control your life, or it can perpetually lock you into a moment of time. Your past helplessness can infiltrate the life you live today and continue on into the future. You cannot help the feeling of regret for some things in life but you must decide the power you will give it.

 

  1. Worrying about what others think.

This is a topic that is more about “reputation”. An honest assessment of yourself would be incomplete without at least taking a cursory look at your reputation. Some people appear to be exempt from this form of regret. For the rest of us, we might have committed a faux pas that has changed the way people perceive us. I am very leery of anyone that says they do not care what others think of them. We might not be overly concerned, it might not dominate our decision making, but to say it has no impact is suspicious at best. As humans, it is a natural desire to get along well with other people. When that appears to be impossible, it is quite normal to turn our analysis inward and question our actions, speech, and motives. Relationships will change for a variety of reasons. The cause of these fissures can be a misinterpreted action, a word spoken out of turn or possibly loss of contact with a person. During moments of nostalgia, we might experience regret for the loss of a close relationship. It is an interesting fact that experts tell us it is impossible to maintain more than 150 friendships. I am not saying we cannot know more than 150 people but we cannot maintain a relationship with them. For those of you on Facebook, take a look at your friend’s list. More than likely some of the people on the list should go into a category named “acquaintances”. Friends vs. Acquaintances is an interesting subject that could support its own blog post. My point I am steering towards is “People will have an opinion and you have only a small part in determining it”. Regret should be saved for the things you have direct control over, not someone’s opinion. I hope my statement is not misconstrued. We should always strive to be the best person we can in our relationships with others. Yet, it is paramount to do the right thing regardless of others opinions. If we are true to ourselves and our core values we will have less regret in our lives. If your compass is off, then correct it back to true north. If people’s opinions are not in line with your core values, maybe you need different friends. Value other’s opinions, but in the end, you are the one that will live with your decisions, not them.

 

  1. Having more confidence in myself.

This could be written in a series of blog posts, I will try to give you an overhead view of the subject. The quiet confidence of a person does not stem from ability alone, it exudes from the inner peace of self-acceptance. This is not a new age, let’s all love everyone at all times writing. Still, we have to look at something from a different viewpoint or we will continue to see the same thing each time. As we look back over our lives we can recall times when confidence in ourselves was low. This can be for a variety of reasons. A question to ask at this point might be “What is the source of my confidence”? We are born with natural abilities (Abilities that require very little work for success), by the same token we are born with weaknesses (Abilities that may never develop fully). The things we love to do (which primarily coincides with our strengths) are great tools for improving our confidence. Society places pressures on people to have a perfect body, a lucrative financial portfolio and have an insanely organized life. Goals are a necessary part of life. There is an old adage that states: “If you shoot at nothing, you will hit it every single time.” Goals must be realistic and achievable, they also should support the life we desire. Do not try to live someone else’s life. Although some of us have similar talents, we are all different instruments in the orchestra of life. When you set  goals then ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish in my life?” Does your answer align with your talents? Are you afraid of failing? Many things affect our confidence and if left unanswered will produce regrets. Operate in your strengths, do not look to others for your confidence, they do not possess what you are looking for nor what you need. These answers will be found when you come to terms with your own identity. Finally, do not fear your difference with others. We are all uniquely made and this should provide added confidence to truly be ourselves.

 

  1. Spending time with the people you love. I have to confess this topic was going to be about spending time with your children. After some quick thought, I have decided that this regret is real for anyone that loves deeply. Life is busy and many times our obligations can be overwhelming. “How are you spending your allotted time with people you love?” I am not talking about time management. I am asking “Are you present with the person you love when you are with them”? Mindfulness addresses this very subject. I will not attempt to address the plethora of things that constantly vie for our attention. Do you listen more than you talk? When you listen are you thinking of the next thing you want to say? Try letting the conversation progress where it needs to go. If you will do this, your relationships will be more satisfying and will produce far less regret. You will long for the other’s company. It will cease to be another item on your to-do list. Eliminate the guilt and spend quality time with people. Put away your cell phone. Turn off the television. It is permissible to have quiet distraction-free conversations. You can collect many things in life, money, land, coins and the list is endless, but you cannot collect time. Each minute is spent equally with or without your permission. Take a moment after you read this blog and talk with someone you love. Give them your full attention and show interest in what they are saying. We have limited time with each other, cherish the time you have together. “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

―  Charles Darwin, The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin

 

In conclusion, we have many opportunities for regret. Will giving regret a foothold in our life changes anything that has been done? We know we cannot change the past, yet we hold on to the guilt and regret. I have often told my friends “There is no perfect life, there is just life.” The beauty of life and the heartaches all come in one package. Mistakes are learning tools, they should be treated as such. If you have regret and most of us do, what lessons have you learned from them? If we continue down the same road we should anticipate arriving at the same place. Today, let go of the regrets and live the life you have always wanted. Don’t look at others with envy, celebrate your uniqueness and use your talents to help your fellow man. I will leave you with a final quote that I believe summarizes this blog very well: “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”

―  Katherine Mansfield

 

 

 

 

Is my schedule to busy?

It would be understandable for you to think this is just another time management article. While that could end up being partly true the primary focus is the question the title is asking: Is my schedule too busy? I believe we have to examine some simple items in our life to intelligently begin to answer that question. This might require something to write with, some paper and some uninterrupted time. Spoiler alert, if you cannot find time to do this simple exercise, you have already answered the question.
    I would like to start the discussion with a subject that is near and dear to my heart, sleep. How many hours do you sleep? I am not here to argue how long a human should sleep. There is a plethora of data available on the web to handle that job satisfactorily.  When I was a Father of newborn twins I probably logged about 12 hours of REM sleep circa 1984, and that was for the entire year. A new trend is starting to emerge with many of the Fortune 100 CEO’s leading the charge. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and others log about 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This is not a debate about how many hours of sleep you should be getting at night, it is more about how many hours are available to sleep when you complete your day? Many people I talk with recognize their sleep quantity is not sufficient for their needs. I remember an exercise that was presented to us in the Marine Corps on time management. It was interesting that we started with the time we wanted to be in bed and worked backward from that point. Everything, in other words, was developed around the hours you wanted to sleep. At the time, I thought sleep was for the weak and those that could not rough out a rigid schedule. My thinking about sleep has certainly changed. Our productivity can be tied to the number of hours we sleep in a given night. You do not have to take my word for this, there have been many studies that confirm this fact. This is not even considering the health benefits of sleep that immediately improves our quality of life. If you do not have time for 8 hours of sleep, your schedule is running you.
      Some people live and die by the to-do list. I read David Allen’s book “Getting things done” and it was revolutionary for me. This system has since become so popular many people know it as GTD. I am a technical geek and love electronic gadgets. Smartphones alone can be so beneficial to our busy schedules in saving us time. The problem with becoming more efficient with our time is we are inclined to put more on our schedules. The liberation of free time is soon lost when we realize it has been replaced with two other items. Dinners, children’s sports programs, civic organizations, church activities; it appears everything is vying for our time in today’s society. Maybe the one response we have forgotten how to say is “No” to some things. There are many worthwhile events that will happen this week. If a person was to say yes to everything that was meaningful, there wouldn’t even be time to sleep, which was already covered previously. There are some things that are hard deadlines we must do in a week, going to work, taking the kids to school and attending activities that begin at a specific time. If you think about it, there are many more things that do not have hard schedule times. So, why do we stress about our schedules so much? Are most of these pressures we put on ourselves self-inflicted? I would be inclined to say yes, we set ourselves up with a schedule that requires the precision of a space shuttle launch and when anything is altered, we are in emergency lockdown until the schedule is completed. One more example before we move on. I see people trying to get to work on time with the same type of precision, leaving no room for error. The unhappy motorists are on edge before they even reach work, and work can sometimes be another labyrinth of impossible time schedules. They head home at the same insane pace to make sure all the aforementioned evening activities: dinner, children’s sports, homework and taking the dog for a walk are completed as per schedule. This happens to many people every day when what they really desire is a moment to relax and just rest. If you can identify with any of this paragraph, your schedule might be too busy.
       I gauge my schedules effectiveness by the quality of conversations I am able to engage in during the day. Do not get me wrong, there are times when deadlines do not permit a few minutes for a conversation. This lack of time to converse with friends, family, and co-workers should be the exception and not the rule. Our relationships in life are the most valuable thing we possess. If we do not have time for meaningful conversations with the people we love, we are too busy, period. Part of the problem is not the moment you try to have a conversation but everything that has led up to that moment. I have already discussed all the crazy schedule requirements and the stress and anxiety they can cause. This reminds me of a runaway train, you can stop it, but it is going to take time and effort. If someone asks do you have a minute and you feel that nervous feeling coming over you, one of two things are in effect:
1. The person asking is notoriously long-winded
2. Your schedule is too busy
I know that seems cut and dry, but it really is when it comes to having one minute to listen to someone. Listen, not multi-task while they are trying to speak. Listen, not looking at your phone, replying to a text or checking your to-do list. Listen, look them in the eye and make them feel they are the most important thing in your schedule even if just for one minute. Do this for me if you will. Take a moment, quit reading (if you don’t have a minute, well, you know) think about the last meaningful conversation you were engaged in with someone other than your spouse or children. My blog motto is Listen.Think.Act.  You will find a busy schedule will interfere with at least 2 of the 3 in that process if not all 3. Hopefully, during my conclusion, I will have suggestions you might find beneficial for your busy schedule. If you can’t make it to the end of this blog, your schedule might be too busy.
      The last thing I want to discuss is what I refer to as “A do nothing day”. This might not be what it sounds like. I usually like to take one day a week where my schedule is my own. I can sit and watch college football. I can take a nap. I can take my wife out to lunch. Better yet, I can do something she wants to do. It relieves me of having to think up what I want to do. I like the old western movies and shows, growing up in the 1970’s. I remember a show called “The Big Valley”, it was one of my all-time favorites. I thought it was cool the way the cowboys rode horses everywhere. I also noticed, they would tie the horse to a post in front of a water trough and let them rest, drink and refresh their energy. I think you see where I am going with this analogy. You must take care of yourself by resting, relaxing and enjoying the people you have in your life. If you do not have time for “A do nothing day”, your schedule might be too busy. Before I conclude, I would like you to think of the perfect “Do nothing day” and start planning for that day. Just the thought alone is refreshing.
    In conclusion, I think most of us can say we allow our schedules to get to busy at times. If you do not have enough time to get the sleep you need, you will need to go on a scheduled diet. What is a scheduled diet? If we intend to lose weight, we often go on a diet. This concept is very simple, take in fewer calories than you use. So what would a scheduled diet look like in the first place? You write down your schedule and then find one thing to remove from that schedule. The only stipulation, it shouldn’t be something you enjoy that you remove. Try it this week. you will gain some sleep and reduce your stress at the same time. The second item is to simplify your to-do list. Some things can be moved around in order to accommodate a better flow for your day. Some things need to be removed altogether from the list. Try it, carve that to-do list up a bit and see what happens to your schedule. You might find it even allows you to be more productive. Third, have a meaningful conversation with someone you love. Turn off the phone, don’t just silence it, turn it off. Give the other person your full attention. Listen more than you talk and they will consider you a great conversationalist. You will also start bonding again with the people that matter most in your life. Fourth, don’t just dream of that “Do nothing day” plan it and set a date for the event. The day will be something you look forward to and enjoy thoroughly. You might find it to be just what your life needs right now. There are many books that will explain how to reduce your schedule and make you more productive. There is outstanding learning we can achieve from these self-help books. I encourage you to try these simple steps I have outlined in this blog and give me your feedback on the things that work for you. I hope your schedule becomes manageable and enjoyable for you and your loved ones. Make the changes you need for a better life. Will it work? Only time will tell.
Last time you had a do nothing day?

Can we disagree and not make it personal?

Can a person be themselves without extreme criticism in 2018? I just viewed tweets being exchanged about our government officials by news anchors, comedians and some people that host late night shows. I cannot remember a time in my fifty-seven years of being alive of either hearing or reading the things I have witnessed in the last week. There is a point when we must stop and say “Can we disagree and not make it personal?” Can we reverse the trend and start treating each other with respect?
Social media is a reflection of how people think and feel. It is frankly scary the way information is being disseminated on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By the way, kids are watching and learning from this forum of information. I am not an alarmist, some information on these platforms do just credit to the people they represent. Still, the trend appears to slant towards a lack of respect for other’s thoughts if it does not align perfectly with their own ideology. So, when differences cannot be supported by facts many times the conversation takes a downward spiral. In my blog Listen.Think.Act this is a process I desire to see implemented in our societal interactions. Again, every generation is alarmed by trends that appear to be detrimental. There is just something very disturbing when human beings no longer value differences in people’s way of thinking and lifestyle.  Is Social Media promoting the acceptance of others differences? Not to a satisfactory level, I am afraid.
        I stay away from partisan politics in my blog like it was a plague. I cannot avoid addressing a part of this subject in a germane fashion. Society is changing in the way it addresses many issues. The new generations always bring a changing of the guard while the older generation cries with nostalgia for the “Good old days”. If you want a division in people, politics and religion is the path to take. I used to teach a class in a church years ago and it was a 30 something group. I would ask the group if they thought differently that day then they did at age 21. I would always get a rousing “Oh yea”. I would follow up with the question, were they right that day or when they were 21? This is a double-edged question. The consensus is probably, most people gain wisdom with age. The second question is do we pick up the baggage of biases and prejudices along the way? I am going to leave that subject for a future blog. Suffice to say, we constantly must re-evaluate the way we think. The politics of old may look different than today’s refreshed version. Allow people to be different without being wrong. It is not a requirement to agree with people but this aggressiveness we see in our divisions will only serve to further divide people while offering very few solutions to the problems we face. I will end this point with a quote I like:

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

The last thing I will talk about is the art of compromise. Compromise is defined as “An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions”. The hardest part of concessions is thinking the other person is not meeting you halfway. The question is halfway to what? Is it halfway to the decision you want to see? When we weigh things on the scale of importance; you cannot have all items weigh the same. You have to pick a priority and give in other areas of the discussion. A person must also consider the possibility that the opinion they hold could be wrong. Not every matter can be resolved in five minutes, sometimes it takes a series of talks in which all parties involved are willing to change if enough sage advice is presented. Your willingness to concede some points does not make you weak, it will eventually make you wise. Other times we just have to agree to disagree and part on amicable terms.  A great example of this is grandparents; they learn over the years to temper their energy to things that need attention and let other things go. In other words, they do not allow everything to be a tragedy. They have learned as the old quote says “To pick your battles”. Oh, if we could all be like grandparents when it comes to politics and religion.

 

Can we disagree and not make it personal? Of course, we can. There are many things we differ on, food, music, movies, and the cars we like just to name a few. The problem is with subjects that polarize our society. Too many years of this “Us against them” mentality and soon we find our selves gridlocked on an item with no one wanting to move an inch. If we are waiting for others to change the way they address an issue it might be a long wait. You must learn to be above petty arguments and trading insults. Behaviors are changed by those humble enough and willing to concede on things that really do not matter. Can we disagree with each other and still be friends and respect one another’s opinion. I think we can. Who is willing to make the first concession?

 

The incessant need to be right

Billy Joel sang a song in the seventies “You may be right”. The one thing we are assured of is your opinion is right, after all, it is your opinion. You might be unable to tell me the capital of Croatia, but you have an open license to tell someone if you like pizza. Being wrong is something different and has various obstacles presented to us from people in society. Have you ever met someone that you felt never admits they are wrong? Have we ever been that person? Are we still that person? Let’s look at some of the possible reasons people feel they need to be right, all the time.

 

It goes without saying we cannot be right 100% of the time. This should not prevent us from trying to be right but can be handled incorrectly sometimes when we are wrong.  Are we really in a good position to determine our own accuracy? Is there really a method to determine how right (accurate) we are on a regular basis? Having a second set of eyes to help with our blind spots is definitely to our advantage. How we handle those inputs from others is the basis for part of this discussion.  I want to start with a question. When was the last time you apologized for being wrong? Not all mistakes require an apology, but some of them do. It is refreshing when someone is gracious and admits when they are unsure of themselves.  Phrases used such as “I did not know that” or “That is a very interesting point of view” or possibly “You know, I think you are right”. If you cannot remember the last time you said these things you might have an incessant need to be right. Our first step of correction might be practicing the art of being humble. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is by C.S. Lewis, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” The removal of pride allows us the room to grow and decreases the incessant need to be right.

 

Again, our speech tells others a great deal about our thought process. The next sentence that could be trouble is “I am a very competitive person”. I have known great athletes and naturally, they were competitive people. I am not talking about competition in its purest form. I am referring to a competitiveness that says “I am right” and ignores any argument that contradicts this view.  This is not only debilitating to one’s personal happiness, but it is also frankly an overbearing boar to those that must endure that type of ego run amuck. A person that feeds this incessant need to be right, eventually discovers most people do not want the confrontation and bow out of the discussion at the earliest point possible. If you want to be right more often talk less and listen more. Life teaches us to depend on the inputs of others. We are surrounded by such a rich talent pool, and the irony is we are oblivious to the fact when we talk too much.  My blog tells a person to Listen.Think.Act. If you are competitive to a fault, you will not have time to listen. You will find yourself too busy self-promoting your ideas or attempting to persuade others you are right and miss out on some of the greatest moments of learning.  The next time you are tempted to say “I am a very competitive person” save yourself and everyone else the confession, they are aware of this already. Stop talking, humble yourself so you are perfectly positioned to learn. You might save yourself the embarrassment, of dispersing redundant information at best, erroneous information at worst. Give that competitiveness its just place, let it drive you to be a better person, not “that guy” people try to avoid at all cost.

 

Another warning sign you have an “Incessant need to be right” surfaces when you constantly make excuses for your errors. Not all excuses are bad, some are actually valid. I read an article on this very subject recently at the following link: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2015/01/16/why-do-we-make-excuses/.

Excuses have their place in our conversations if they are the exception and not the rule. What I am asking at this point is: Are you driven by honest self-assessment or do you languish in a world of alibis? I teach for a living, and my students tell me I am an electronic genius. I tell them the term genius is overused today. I then reset the conversation by telling them “I have done this longer than you have, and one day you will exceed what I have done”. Do not try to appear inferior to others, false modesty is easily perceived. Do not put yourself down for the things you do not know. Be proud of what you have accomplished, just remember “It is what it is”. Excuses are a crutch we lean on many times to give our egos a boost. We must open ourselves up to learn from the credible sources in our lives. An excuse metaphorically takes me from the front row of the class and sets me in the hallway.  If you have a talent, you do not have to self-promote, your talent will accomplish that task. This section on excuses might not apply to you but regardless you should try a little experiment. For the next couple of days, make a mental note every time you find yourself making an excuse.  You might be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by the results. Remember, most people do not have the time or interest for tallying your mistakes, faux pas’ in word annunciations, math miscalculations or just forgetting someone’s name. It reminds me of the old saying: “Ego is about who is right. Truth is about what’s right”. The ones that keep score and track your mistakes, need to read this paragraph more than you do. Learning and becoming a better person is the goal and the prize, for those that can check their egos.

 

The last topic is something, I believe, we all can relate to especially if you are above the age of fifty. As I wrote earlier, I am an instructor of Electronics for the government. I frequently ask my students the following question: “Have you ever misplaced your wallet, car keys or cell phone? I usually get a very large response of hands. I tell them: “You should never rely on your memory for anything important”. Of course, I am trying to encourage them to use notes, flash cards, and other media forms to learn their information. Another example, if you ever witness a crime, accident or other traumatic events, most law enforcement officers try to get you to write what you observed quickly. The reason, which most people understand is we don’t remember events accurately over time. Malcolm Gladwell, a writer for the New Yorker and NY Times best-selling author of the books, The Tipping Point, Outliers and Blink.  recently did a great podcast called: “Free Brian Williams” you can find it here http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/24-free-brian-williams If time does not permit you to listen now, it is worth your time to listen to it later.

Gladwell talks specifically about the problem with memory over time. Why do I bring this subject up in the first place? Our memories are not as reliable as we might believe. The incessant need to be right is going to be tied to our memory, which is not a great reference for some things. This should help keep your humility needle sitting center on the dial.  Try to rely on the memory of others as well as your own. We are stronger as a group then we are alone.

 

So, what are takeaways from the following reading? I hope our first take away is a humble attitude is a great learning tool. The second is to watch out for making excuses when an apology would be better suited for the situation. The third point is not everything is a competition. Finally, our memory is not always the best reference for things. If I could give any advice on this subject it would be to listen more than you speak. Listen.Think.Act. is not a mantra, it is a way of processing things to be better people? If you want people to listen when you speak, then you must be good at listening to them. As we age it becomes evident the things we’ve done right and our mistakes are fairly even. What is critical are the things we get right, not how many times we were right. Love, respect and help others. We are guaranteed to be right each time with these choices.

 

 

The things I learned from being a Dad

I must confess this writing is in retrospect. My youngest daughter will be 23 in November and the oldest twins turned 34 this past August. I will attempt to show through careful prose the things these miniature people taught me along the way. Let me first say that every grey hair (that is among those that are still there) was earned and christened with laughter and love, although it is much easier to see it this way with hindsight.
      This first thing I learned was my wife would just glow when she was pregnant. I am not sure if I have the vocabulary to describe the way a woman looks when she is pregnant with a baby she loves. Sometimes a Dad might feel compelled to gain sympathy baby weight along with his wife. I am not sure why when our youngest son was born I thought I could eat dozens (I do mean literally dozens) of donut holes with not even the smallest regard to gaining weight. One day I remember, in particular, I had just finished work and when I arrived home I asked my wife what happened to the donut holes? She started to cry and exclaimed, “I ate them all”. Without hesitation, I did the only logical thing and went to the store and bought us another box. It appears common
sense is something future Dads lose early into the pregnancy.
       I remember the sheer panic that beset me as I looked at my newborn baby. I thought of myself as a brave person but nothing in all my military training could have prepared me for this mission. I had never dealt with anything in my life in which guessing was the modus operandi. When he/she cries it could be a:
1. Bad Diaper
2. They might be hungry
3. They might have gas
4. They might be too warm
5. They might just need to be re-positioned
ARE. YOU.KIDDING.ME!! I was not only ill-equipped for this infants version of charades, I realized game playing isn’t something I like all that well for starters. I could not believe that trying to get a baby to sleep was like juggling nitroglycerin. One night I remember distinctly when we were stationed in Beaufort, South Carolina. Judi, my wife, usually woke the instant the baby rustled, semi-belched or just let out a sigh. Yours truly could have gone through a nuclear blast detonation and still no movement. As luck, karma or fate would have it, I actually heard the baby before my wife was awakened. I got up and decided to feed little James, my son and let her sleep. I guess the first mistake involved turning on the overhead light in the babies room. Then, to add insult to injury, I started talking to him and playing our usual peek-a-boo. I know, is this guy actually from this planet. By the time I got the bottle warmed and sat down to watch Sports Center (ESPN) all the while asking the baby every question that has been posed to mankind throughout the ages, he fed, burped and then was wide awake. I thought my wife said he will eat the bottle and then go right back to sleep. 4 hours later, my wife comes out to ask what happened. I was delirious from the lack of REM sleep while James I believe had gotten on the phone to call some neighbor babies over to play. This was a disastrous night and I learned that stimulation with a baby in the middle of the night = no sleep for Dad. Yet, 24 years later it is a memory I cherish. It was me and my son in a moment that will never be repeated and also never forgotten by me.
     Little girls should come with a sticker that says “Dad, you are about to get rolled for a long time, and just a smile alone will make it happen.” I have two daughters and it should be against every moral law to impose such things on a Dad. One day while coming home from work I was met at the door by my 3-year-old daughter Rebecca with a Barbie Doll. Yes, you did hear that correctly, A BARBIE DOLL. Just when I thought things could not get any less savory, she asked me to change her outfit. I have pulled engines from cars with less effort and frustration. Not only was this Barbie’s outfit apparently spray painted on to her body, but it was also physically impossible to get it even halfway off, much less changed out with a new outfit. My daughter continued coaching me on all the methods I was incorrectly executing for the task, yet not once offering to take this albatross duty from me. We completed the Barbie escapade, with more than a little help from my wife Judi, whereupon I went looking for the stiffest drink I could find. Again, what seemed at the time to be the equivalent of trying to climb Mount Everest is one of my fondest memories with my daughter. It wasn’t the task, it was the time I was spending with her that made the difference. I learned that afternoon that the most valuable gift we can give our children is our time.
     There should be a special spot on forms that say “Teenager”. Anybody remotely associated with kids that age would say “I get it now”. This is a period of time in which your child seems to have this immense increase in knowledge while the parents common sense seems to decline exponentially. Can this possibly be this precious child I knew just a few years ago? Somehow the child has morphed into this expensive, know it all with the propensity to let out sighs, roll eyes and those are on the good days. Although, there is that one moment when you have a semi-adult conversation and you see a glimmer of hope. Is it possible this child will make it to adulthood without a stint in prison? Then they say that magical thing, “Thanks Dad or Daddy” and your heart melts like snow on a summer day. I learned patience during my children’s teenage years. It reminds me of the old adage “I want patience and I want it right now.” I also learned how hard life can be for a young person that is looking for the right answers and the desire to do the right things. I also became aware that I was still in that same struggle. Maybe we are just grown-up versions of our teenage self when it is all said and done.
     When the kids move away it is a bittersweet day. You get an instant pay raise. You add a few hundred feet of living area without spending a dime and the house just about becomes soundproof. Those are the good things and also the bad things simultaneously. Your work is mostly complete. Oh, there will be days when the kids will need your financial help or maybe even a short stay in their old bedroom, but things have changed. You realize, their childhood was a big dress rehearsal for the life they will now have to live for themselves. They will start a family and the cycle of life will continue with a new generation. You pray for their happiness and want them to succeed in everything they do and worry that it might not happen. You realize you have just experienced something amazing, the gift of raising your kids to adulthood. Grandchildren come along and you understand how precious every moment is that you might have wished away with your children.
    In the end, I think my children taught me as much about life as I tried to teach them. Their innocence in the way they view our world is something every adult should emulate. Their ability to see everyone as a potential friend and the way they abhor unkindness to people should be bottled and sold to every adult on earth. There are two things on this earth I have found that love, in it’s purest sense of the word, they are babies and dogs. They just want your love, your laughter, and your smile. If we could learn to value such things, we would see a world the way it should always be.

Some things we fear most in life

Fear might be something we all understand until we have to define it. Many studies have been conducted about the things we think of in our sub-conscience and fear might be one that resides in this area. Fear if left unchecked can cause the most rational person’s actions to become questionable.  I wanted to take a look at some aspects of fear to include the fear of rejection, the fear of speaking in front of people, phobias and finally the fear of death.  This is not a scientific paper but one that hopefully will cause you to Listen.Think.Act.

 

There was a group from the 80’s called Siouxsie and the Banshees. They had a song named “Fear of the Unknown”. So much of life is unknown it is only natural for a certain amount of “healthy fear” to be present in our lives. Of course, like anything in life we need a balance between that which is healthy (fear of things that can cause harm) and the peculiar fears that help define our uniqueness.  It is hard to define fear but maybe Meriam Webster will help get us started: “An unpleasant often strong  emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger; a reason for alarm.”

 

Now that we have a basis for this word, the fear of rejection is the first item we will examine.  The new landscape for relationships changed a few years back with the introduction of social media. This advent ushered in a whole new  “fear of rejection”. When someone shuns you, which could be for a plethora of reasons, it can be a hit to our ego. Depending on the timing, some are much worse than others. If you have recently experienced a breakup, lost your job, or found out you did not make a team you were trying to join, etc… These are not good times to have someone reject your friendship. An unhealthy fear of trying to “put yourself out there for others” can escalate your fear even from the most innocent of coincidences. Don’t let fear stand in the way of developing new relationships. The best friend you will ever have could be the next person you meet.

 

 

Let’s also consider the person that is afraid to talk in front of people. They might be asking “Is everyone sitting there critiquing me and my every move?” Continuing this dialog in our heads, might sound like this: “Is someone in the back laughing at their friend, or were both of them laughing at me?” Our minds are capable of some pretty suspicious thinking when presented with even the most pedestrian activity from others. This type of self-talk can take the most innocuous actions and catapult us into our next episode of social anxiety? I can tell you from personal experience that people are to busy to put that much thought into your every action.

 

Fears can be rational one minute and irrational the next, it depends on the thought process we use when engaging the fear. I have often wondered how a fear becomes a phobia? Gizmodo had an article that addresses phobias that were very interesting, you can check it out at https://io9.gizmodo.com/5881188/why-do-people-have-phobias. Sometimes, new fears accompany us as we age. Fears that once were prevalent earlier in life seem to disappear with age (i.e. being liked by everyone) but have been traded with new fears (being in a crowded room for too long). FearOf.net has produced a list of the top ten phobias of 2018  and here was the top 5:

1.Arachnophobia – fear of spiders.

  1. Ophidiophobia – fear of snakes.
  2. Acrophobia – fear of heights
  3. Agoraphobia – fear of wide open or crowded places.
  4. Cynophobia – fear of dogs. (This one was a surprise)

Fear, as we can see, does not have to make sense, but can have a credible impact on our lives none the less. This leads me to the final fear I want to discuss.

 

Death is a subject that has been written about by many different authors and experts. Yet, we still know so little about this phenomenon. I read Christopher Hitchens book “Mortality” a couple years back and he had a phrase that has stuck with me. In his last year of life, he called it “The year of living dyingly.”  Some, I suspect are so preoccupied with death they forget to live. Death is a natural part of life. The one strange thing about death is once you have experienced it, it’s secrets are kept safe with you. This is how Epicurus described death “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?” I think the real fear of death for me is separation from our loved ones. This should be a catalyst to live every day with passion and not take our relationships for granted. Will this exempt us from the fear of death, probably not, but it will exempt us from regrets.

 

Fear is something all of us live with, in some degree or fashion. I do not have an answer on how to overcome fear. I will leave that to professionals with much greater credentials than my own. I have learned one thing over the years, some fears will rob us of a complete life. There are many methods taught on how to face our fears, which might give us limited success. Maybe Franklin Delano Roosevelt was correct after all. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ”

 

Is the real world virtually unknown?

 

Webster defines “virtual” as: “very close to being something without actually being it”. That definition has similarities to the world we live in. “Some live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality, and then there are those who turn one into the other.”– Douglas H. Everett   We all seek to escape from our everyday lives, we see pieces of evidence by the fact that people watch movies, play video games or go on vacation. The danger exists when the balance between the real world and the one that is in our mind start to merge indistinguishably.

 

Experts have calculated that the planet as a whole plays 3 billion hours of video games per week. Surprisingly, we hear far more detrimental comments on Gaming and promoting violence than we hear about the benefits of gaming. I am not writing an article on the benefits and detriments of gaming. There is plenty of information to support both ideas. I am looking at the time we give up interacting with real people. Losing the skill set of having meaningful discussions about problems and current events with our peers can be a point of concern. While gaming is a good outlet for relaxation, it should not take the place of conversations with real people about things happening today. Balancing life is always a challenge in 2018. What makes up the greatest portion of your non-work time? It appears we make time for the things we value in life. Is the greatest portion of your time spent in the real world?

I had a sudden lapse into nostalgia last week and recalled a time when there weren’t social media. Communication was difficult without this popular medium. Immediate conversations rarely happened unless contact was made by the telephone Yet, I wonder if we valued those relationships more than we do today? I think overexposure through these social portals can affect normal relationships. Experts say a person can only maintain 150 friends at any given time if they were dedicated 24 hours a day to that task. We can fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. “The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”

― Voltaire

The warning signs are when people take notice of the differences within your social media profile and the way you act in person. Spending too much time in this pseudo world can easily fool others but ultimately might end up just fooling ourselves. Occasionally, we should write a letter (you remember those things), pick up the phone and call someone or mail a postcard. These mediums will cost you more than a few keystrokes but can be so meaningful to the recipient. They will also keep you grounded and operating in the real world.

In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later. The series inspired the MTV reality television series The Real World. This was the birth of programming that would forever change the shows people watched on television. We are all familiar with the term “Reality Television”. Most of us would be hard-pressed to deny having watched at least a portion of this genre of entertainment. There was a time when this type of behavior was referred to as voyeurism. Gerald Mast’s quote says it very well:

Voyeurism allows us to experience all the excitement of disaster, catastrophe, and pain, to witness the most horrible human events, without any danger of feeling real pain.

It becomes obvious “Reality Television” is just another escape from the real world. It appears reality television is just an escape from the problems we don’t want to face in our own lives. If television is a lens into the behavior of our society, we might be living in a fantasy world or running a con game on ourselves. How much of an escape from reality is healthy?

Finally, the way we look at a person’s self-esteem might be our biggest escape from reality. We see kids receiving trophies for finishing in the last place in a competition. This award is to protect our children’s self-esteem, but are we showing them a world that doesn’t really exist? The world, in some aspects, is a better place than the one of my childhood in the 1970’s. Yet, I am concerned we are raising a future generation that has been appeased with false promises and incorrect perceptions. Part of real-world living involves failure, disappointments and recognizing our strengths and weaknesses. We discover who we really are through failures, it is sometimes our greatest teacher. To remove these assets of learning from our children places them in a precarious position. The child, that eventually becomes an adult is introduced to society and its pressures, and this introduction can be an alarming event. Balance is the key to anything in life. Teaching our kids this balance at an early age will yield greater benefits than we can calculate.

 

In conclusion.  I think in the end we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. Life is tough and everyone needs to escape its pressures to realign or refocus themselves. Above all things, we need to be real. People will approve and disapprove of most things you do. Hiding in a pseudo world doesn’t protect us from pain, failure or disappointment, it only amplifies that they exist. I will leave you with one of my favorite passages, it is from the Velveteen Rabbit. I think it speaks to the heart of everyone the value that comes from being in the real world, and of course being a real person.

 

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

Women are not treated as equals in the workforce in 2018

How would you feel if you had to outperform most of your peers just to be treated as an equal? Welcome to the world of many women today in today’s workforce. I know you might be thinking, this is one of those touchy-feely articles that paint women as victims and to some extent you might be correct. I am 57 and have been working since the age of 16. I have to confess that spending 20 years in the Marine Corps did not improve my awareness of this disparity. I really started noticing the gulf between men and women after my military career was over. Here are some of the problems I have observed.

 

  1. Women do not have the same opportunity as men

It does not take long to figure out many higher office positions and occupations are male-dominated. If you are a woman and fortunate enough to work your way up into an upper echelon position, you will likely find it primarily dominated by men. The Huffington Post wrote an article about women’s opportunities in business compared to men: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/womenas-ilab/the-status-of-women-in-le_b_10842506.html. Women hit an all-time high number in 2017 with 32% making it to CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. That number is correct, less than one third and that is the best year ever for women. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

2. Women do not make the same pay as their peers

This cannot happen in the workforce today, can it? In minimum wage jobs, not as likely, but in jobs where a salary is negotiated, it happens all too often. Business Insider has an article about wage inequality: https://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3.  You would think with the evidence of these statistics, things could be done to improve the situation.  The pressure that is put on a woman is palpable. Many times, women are made to feel if they do not take the position at a lower wage, they will “miss” their opportunity for upward mobility. It is surprising when we think about the first two reasons for workforce inequality for women. What could be worse?

3. Sexual harassment

I am not going to venture into the “MeToo” movement. This blog stays away from religion, politics and other politically charged subjects. What we do not stay away from are facts. NPR has done many surveys on this subject, the most recent was February 2018 https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment. The survey found 81% of women have experienced some type of sexual harassment on their jobs. The same survey found only 43% of men experiencing this same harassment. The numbers are hard to believe in a draconian period of time, let alone 2018. I think we are heading toward the real problem with this inequality discussion.

4. Stereotypes linger from the “Good old days”

We only need to watch prime time television shows from any time in the last 50 years to see these stereotypes played out on popular sitcoms, news broadcasts and don’t even get me started on parading women around on the News stations today. We have these stereotypes and still, men will tell me “They make their own choices”. Are the same decisions being presented to men? We all know that sex sells and this is just a license to treat women as objects. Women are forced to take the low road in order to reach the high one. This is not equality, and the more we support organizations that do such things, the more we promote inequality.

5.  Last but not least, we do not look at women as equals

Today, to say racism, sexism, and biases are not running ramped is to bury our heads in the sand. Think of two successful people off the top of your head.  Here are some of the names that came to my mind: Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Did you think of Oprah Winfrey or Sheryl Sandberg? What if I told you Oprah has a net worth of 2.9 billion dollars or Sheryl Sandberg is at 1.5 billion dollars. We don’t hear nearly as much about the success of women holding top positions in their respective organizations even though they are common buzzwords in your daily vocabulary.  Sheryl Sandberg said it best “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”.

6.  In conclusion

It is sad we have people on this planet that cannot treat others as equals, but with women, we are talking about half the planet. When I was in the Marine Corps, they would tell us “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem”. We have much work to do in leveling the playing field for women in the workforce. It all starts with how we look at them and what we see. I look and see my daughters, my beautiful wife and want them to have equal opportunities for happiness and success. Look around this week. Is the playing field level? What are you doing to change the environment?

 

 

Am I different?

I am a quirky person. I know, strange way to start a post, but true none the less. I would like to submit the question to you: “Are you different”? If you are getting your first cup of coffee for the day, this might be a little heavier thought than you are ready to tackle. Give this thought some time before you read on. You might have thought of a follow-up question, “What am I comparing myself to with this question?” Ah, now we are off and running. I believe we have a desire for unique things in our life. Have you ever looked at a new product and thought, that is so cool? It might not be something you would need, it is just different than anything that is currently on the market. Here are three things I believe that will make you different in other people’s eyes.

 

  1. Spend time developing what you are good at. 

Early school years were an exercise in frustration for this very reason. I was not the best at Math. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand Math; at the time I had no desire to be a math prodigy. Are you pursuing things you are very good at doing? Are you developing skills that feed your passion? If you want to be unique, do not live someone else’s life. Spend time developing and sharing your gift. Your uniqueness will start to emerge slowly and deliberately.

 

  1. Be an orange in a basket of apples

This might sound strange, and it is, but I believe you get the mental picture I am trying to paint. Most of us like to get along and be part of a group. I recently read about an exercise that was done with a large group in an auditorium. The speaker gave the crowd a task. He told the group when I instruct you to begin, clap your hands every second and continue until I tell you to stop. Of course, it sounded like applause when the crowd first began, yet, a strange thing took place about 3 seconds into the exercise. Everyone started clapping in unison. It was not directed but happened without anyone’s coordination. It was a perfect exercise to demonstrate that people like to be in unison. Are you clapping at the same pace as those around you? It is quite possible you are squelching your uniqueness for the sake of conformity. This is what Steve Jobs said about this subject: “Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think

they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

 

  1. Be different for a purpose, not to just be different.

Finally, don’t be different just to be different. Some will make a spectacle of themselves just to be noticed. Be different because you are that way, but be genuine in your difference. The Doors, a group from the 1960’s had a hit song titled “People are strange”. No truer words have been penned in a song. You are different than those around you. This is the gift we have as humans. Always seek improvement as a person, but do not lose that difference, that uniqueness that is “You”. Am I different? Yes, I am, and so are you. This is the gift that has been given to us. What we do with that gift is entirely up to us.

 

Everyday Mindfulness

With all the distractions of today’s world, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes life so wonderful. It seems we are so eager to find things that take our mind off the here and now. Cell phones, video games, TV shows, and social media; the list goes on and on. Here are a few everyday opportunities to enjoy the present world around you.

 

The Power of the Golden Hour

 

The transitional period just after sunrise and right before sunset is known as the Golden Hour. It is well known in the photography world as a prime time for wonderful portraits and landscapes given the natural light is softer and redder than at any other time in the day. You don’t have to be a photographer to soak up the brilliant lighting and alluring aesthetics of the Golden Hour. Take the time to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea on a bench and take note of your surroundings. Chances are they look a shade or two more inviting than usual, all thanks to a little bit of phenomenal lighting.

 

Unravel with a Joyride

 

Life can get the best of us sometimes. When the stress comes to a head and you truly need a break, take a joyride. I’m a firm believer in a few requirements for joyrides:

  • Don’t drive with a destination in mind, the purpose is the drive itself.
  • Weather providing, windows should be down.
  • If you are with company, keep talking to a minimum.
  • A designated playlist or album is a must!

Take this time to enjoy the drive, whether it be on backroads or city blocks there is always something new to find when you go wandering instead of simply commuting. Is that an old antique shop? Wonder where this road goes? You’re in the Captain’s Chair. Make sure you bring a map, just in case.

 

Purposeful Idle Time

 

People love schedules and planning. Ensure that you pencil in some idle time at some point during your daily routine. Use this time in whatever manner suits you, just make sure you actually use it. Maybe some quiet breathing exercises or meditations can help you invigorate your morning while a crossword and some chai can aid you in unwinding from your workday. Whatever way you see fit, see to it that you find some time to simply pass the time. Ideally, this will be sans TV’s and touchscreens, but if watching a few DIY videos from your favorite blogger helps you feel refreshed, go for it.

 

How do you recharge?

 

Distractions can be a very good thing when stress bogs us down. We can choose to be more mindful of the breaks we take from work or school and be cognizant of the wonderful world around us instead of hiding from it behind screens of all sizes. What are some of your favorite ways of escaping the stress and enjoying the present world around you? How does it help you?

Written by Patrick Hicks