Category Archives: Perspective Growth

What Makes a Fool

My Favorite Fool

Some people occur to us as intelligent and bright. Others, however, strike us as painfully dumb. If you asked folks, “What makes a smart person smart and a dumb person dumb?” many might quickly reply that it is the amount of knowledge one possesses that makes them smart or birdbrained.

For the average case, I would disagree. Lack of knowledge means they don’t know too much, but does that make them foolish? After all, don’t most of us know about a certain topic in which others are clueless (usually job-specific information)? Does this make us smart and them “dumb”? More specifically, is this really the quality that makes one seem intelligent or unintelligent–simply knowing something that others don’t? I don’t think so; that’s an incomplete picture.

I’ve noticed that what a person knows actually has little to do with whether they strike us as smart or a few fries short of a happy meal. What really makes a person sound unintelligent is not a lack of brain content, but rather an overestimation of it.

Think about it; you must know some graduate students, business people, doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists, engineers, etc. who shock you with their stupidity. “How did they get into [insert college with impressive name]?!” Humans can possess a ton of information but still really strike you as a few noodles short of a casserole. How? They lack one important piece of information: the limits of their information.

If you are over-confident about your knowledge, you are less likely to ask for help or go and look up something that you don’t know because you won’t admit to yourself that you don’t know it! When someone “does something stupid,” what really happened? They didn’t stop and think, “how should this be done?” And why didn’t they stop and think that? Because they were operating under the assumption that they already knew. This also applies to “saying something stupid.”

We want to fix this, never be a dingbat and become clear about what we don’t know, but knowledge is funny–we don’t know everything that is unknown to us. We know some of it (for example, I know I don’t know biochemistry), but the stuff that we don’t know that is unknown to us oddly doesn’t exist on our mental map. The only way we can go about dingbat prevention is building a habit of evaluating our knowledge and, when appropriate, saying “I don’t know.” We can help ourselves by developing an attitude of humility when it comes to our knowledge.

The difference between dumb and not-dumb is “I don’t know.” The difference between not-dumb and smart is “I don’t know, let me go and find out.”

Every Meal is Proof the Universe Wants You Here

The universe arranged this buss up shut with beef, pumpkin, and aloo with an orange solo for me. Universe works wonders.

Right before you dig into your next meal, stop and consider your situation. Imagine that you have no past, that you were just plopped into existence at that very moment. Consider just what that moment is, and what it could have been.

No matter what your situation, it at least includes some food that you can eat, probably in comfort. It also includes some degree of health, ie life, otherwise you wouldn’t be eating or reading this.

It includes some man hours in terms of preparation, the harvesting of some things that grew out of the Earth that resulted from millions of years of marvelous engineering, and probably the forfeited life of an animal.

In that moment, everything is arranged so that you may have that meal and keep it moving.

Considering these things before every meal has given me a sense of joyful indebtedness to the universe. As meals keep rolling in, you can’t help but wonder “why?”

The Expectations Box

box.

“You can’t be let down if you don’t have expectations.” The worst part about expectations, however, is not that they allow the possibility of let down, but rather that they tend to cause tunnel vision. Expectations cause us to look for what we think is there versus what could be there.

It’s probably an instinctual part of survival–if every time you see a bear you get attacked, you are likely to run the next time you even smell a bear. But with this good comes a bad. Our mind becomes conditioned and we enter the process of reaffirming our beliefs.

If every girlfriend you had cheated on you, it is possible that you begin to expect all girlfriends to cheat on you. If you’ve been robbed four times and every time it was a black male, it’s possible that you begin to keep your guard up around black males. If you get poor service at the post office and the DMV often, it’s possible that you expect that government workers to be lazy.

What happens when we allow this to take place? We keep the girl who truly loves us at a distance. We push her away. We close out relationships with an entire race of people. We bring down the postal worker as we approach them with a stink attitude. The next person in line finds a hurt postal worker.

We could have had love. We could have found a friend. We could have made someone’s day.

But expectations don’t just affect our relationship to others.

I grew up with several interests, and one of them was money. I was fascinated with it and I had grandiose dreams for my future. Throughout school I had small businesses on the side, my father and mentors were business men, I even went to school for business. Money was going to be a huge part of my life. I had that expectation. Well, right now, I’m letting go of that expectation and for the first time opening up to the idea that money is not what really drives me. I’m finding more fire in things such as reading and writing. Life begins to look a lot different, but I am very glad to be here. I wouldn’t change it for anything and it makes me happy with my path. My expectations of me were boxing me in.

Good: “What if you dropped expectations of others?” Better: What do you expect of yourself? And are these expectations allowing you to be open to a you that is entirely different from the one you know?

You think you know you, but you may very well have no idea. Expecting good behavior from yourself surely is helpful. But do you expect yourself to act up when your significant other talks to the opposite sex? Do you expect that you won’t finish things you start? Do you expect to miss your bedtime again tonight? Why is that you? Can you at least be open to the idea that that isn’t you? And the you that you envisioned, being secure and thorough, and sticking to plans…can you give that you a chance? Please?

Is it because you’ve missed your bedtime ten nights in a row? Is that why you expect you’ll miss it again tonight? Isn’t that expecting the girlfriend to cheat, the postal worker to be an ass, and the black guy to be a thief? Aren’t you imposing the same faulty judgment process on your own self?

Maybe you’re the person that you dream yourself to be, that secure person who does everything they say they will. Maybe you are totally different from who you think you are.

You Will Die

Time's 'a Tickin'!

Focusing on our own mortality could be a very helpful technique used to breathe spirit into our daily lives. Boredom and laziness are not part of a healthy human being-ness; they represent a spirit so covered up with societal expectations, media garbage, and lack of questioning. Curiosity, wonder, and satisfaction from daily work are what every human soul craves. I think we slip away from these blessed states when we “forget” that we will soon enough die.

Human attempts to conquer nature are as old as humans, almost, and death has not escaped our cross-hair. Pills to make us live longer, research into DNA to see if we can reverse the aging process, and freezing ourselves are all attempts we have made to escape the seemingly inescapable. So far, no luck.

We don’t seem to want  to die, and we try to avoid it in more subconscious ways. Leaving a legacy is one of the most common thoughts of dying men and women: “What will I leave to my kids?” “How will I be remembered?” “Can I make a donation to get my name on a wall somewhere?” The curiosity, wonder, and helpful attitude endemic in human being-ness is often buried as we try to make ourselves feel whole and complete through things such as money and status. We will never be good-looking enough, rich enough, or popular enough to avoid the same death as everyone else.

Curiosity, wonder, and that helpful attitude in humans brings about joy and progress.  The best scientists, reformers, and performers of any kind have all stated that they were never motivated by money, but rather by passion to learn and discover how great they could be, how far their could go, or how real they could make their dreams. So what does death have to do with all of this?

First, let’s look at direction. The closer one comes to truly realizing that they will die, the more valuable their time on Earth becomes. You probably know when you meet someone who has had a near death experience, as they often change their entire life course, usually to go on and encourage others to follow their dreams. That should be a big enough give away right there, bucko. If you can really spend twenty minutes trying to visualize what your last hour on Earth might feel like, it very well may make your heartbeat increase as your head becomes flooded with lots of questions. The big things to pay attention to are “I should have,” “I would have,” and “I could have,” as one who faces death must truly wonder “what if I just did what I thought I should do?” “What if I was the spouse, sibling, child, me that I always envisioned, rather than giving into my excuses to not be that person?” Curiosity runs abound. Things that you “have” to do start to lose footing…you might see that what you have to do is actually what you really, deep down, want to do. From the second we are born, our time is ticking. We only can begin to live once we realize what we’re actually doing here is dying.

Next, consider the strength of living a life of principle. “If nothing is worth dying for, then nothing is worth living for.” If you believe that your race should be treated fairly, great. If they are legally treated as secondary citizens and you say “hey stop that!” and the government says “No, shut up or we’ll kill you,” and you respond “Oh, well…that’s that,” you’ve just decided that hanging onto life is more important than your principle of equal treatment. What would a life look like where nothing was worth giving up your life, though? You would essentially be clinging to life, trying to safeguard it, not giving your all for your principle in fear of losing it. This is a shame because you are going to lose it anyway.

Coming to terms with one’s own mortality leaves one powerful in the face of fear. This is useful because sticking up for principle can be quite scary. But consider that some of the most effective men and women in history were fearless.  “I know I am going to die, so why give up on my principle?” Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Socrates were all people who faced serious consequences to their well-being because of their curiosity and dedication, yet it never fazed them, even though it did end up in some of their deaths. Those people were full of life, and maybe realized that since they will certainly die one day, the only way to die is to die doing exactly what they believed they should do.

Finally, if you are going to die tomorrow, your neighbor taking your parking spot really isn’t going to cause you to spend fifteen minutes brewing over what an inconsiderate penie-head he is. Some might say that if we are all going to die tomorrow, “we might as well go commit crime, steal, rape, pillage, do drugs, etc.” Over and over, this is shown to not be the case. I just talked a guy who was in an area that suffered serious emergency flooding. He said he was astounded at the way people came together to help one another. My friend Jonny Boy told me a story about people in the Twin Towers, who stayed by strangers in wheel chairs, unwilling to abandon a fellow human being. Stories like this are a dime a dozen, pal. When death is imminent–which it is, if we choose to acknowledge it–there is less room to screw over your fellow human being. If I have two hours to live and so do you, I’ll probably ask you if there’s anything I can do to help, as we see ourselves as travel companions here on Earth making our last wishes.

Do you think Gandhi or MLK, Jr. ever said “I’m bored?”There is so much to do and learn here on Earth, and tomorrow isn’t promised. We will die soon, and we could die in our sleep tonight.

What do you want to see, know, have accomplished on your last day on Earth?

But You’re Not Me

Does anyone have the same birthday as you? The same time of birth?

Do they have the same parents as you? With all the same lessons and style of upbringing?

Do they have the same set of friends as you? Down to duplicate Facebook friends list, down to literally identical experiences with those friends from trials, tribulations, arguments, jokes, long talks?

Does anyone have the same set of mentors and schooling as you? Did they pay attention to exactly what you paid attention to, found the exact same stuff interesting, and worked the same amount of time as you?

Does anyone want exactly what you want for yourself? For the world?

Do they have the exact same work experience, with the same boss, coworkers, events, ups and down?

Do they agree with you 100% on what is right and wrong? Do they agree with you on whether Tupac is dead or alive?

And do they see the purpose of life the same way you see it? Have they determined what they are doing here on Earth to be exactly the same thing as what you’re doing here?

Have they suffered the same failures at the same times as you, and gotten the exact same identical lessons from those failures?

Have they gone through the same hardships as you? Experienced the same luxuries?

Do they have the same aspirations?

Do they have the exact same genetic make up (rhetorical), with the same tendencies and preferences for certain types of reactions, behavior, and likes/dislikes?

Do they have the same Nature+Nurture as you?

So how much sense does it make to ask advice? “If I were you, I would x y z x y z ….” But you’re not me. Did they answer yes to all the questions above? Each individual situation is so mind-blowingly, astronomically unique that advice truly makes no sense. It leads us to believe that there is some common place we are all trying to get to, and not to believe that the goal is the path itself–the decisions we make for ourselves and the learning and living process that comes along with it. Whether our decisions turn out “good” or “bad” is irrelevant when it comes to our personal growth.

Imagine if you never made a decision, and every single thing you did in life was directed by the advice of someone who you really admired. What would your last few moments of life feel like? I suspect you would have a lot of painful curiosity.

“People ask advice when they know what they need to do but just don’t want to do it.” Maybe every time we ask for advice, we really know the answer but we are fighting our internal compass. Why don’t we trust what we would do without advice? What is the value of trusting one’s self?

To give advice without being asked for it is to assume you know what lies both ahead and behind another person. It is to attempt to rob their life of making their own decisions. If they ask you for advice, perhaps you can offer it but we all owe it to our fellow humans to remind them that our decisions are not applicable to their lives.

6 Reasons To Get Up And Go (To Another Country)

World Map“Traveling” can mean different things to different people. Let’s break it down:

A “vacation”, to me, is when you go somewhere for mental relaxation and physical enjoyment. Go to a beach, read a book, and pass out in the sun after too many exotic mixed drinks. “Touring” might be what you do when you want to go somewhere and to see the place or do a particular activity. You set up your hotels, transportation, and trips before you get there because you already know what you want to get out of your stay there. “Traveling” or “exploring” might be the name for a trip that has a set duration, but is done without planning out the details in advance–that part is left for exploration and open-mindedness. You’ll figure it out when you get there. The last option is what I would call “getting up and going.” I could probably find a better term for it, but this is buying a one-way ticket without a plan to return (it’s also what I did 7 months ago). Maybe you will come back (most likely), maybe you won’t. It’s an amazing privilege as it requires a unique set of life circumstances that involve financial freedom and lack of major responsibilities (namely children), and most of all, an open mind. These last two types of travel are not popular but are very different from the first two. They can change your life dramatically.

I’ve spent the past seven months abroad in a similar sort of travel journey. It took me about eight months to get myself into the mindset where I was ready to get up and leave without a plan to return. It took a lot, and probably not what you think–it was actually a new-found fascination with science that ended up making me question things enough to reach the point where I was ready to get up and leave. I have no regrets, and I’m going to share some of the best reasons I’ve found to get up and go.

So let’s go: Continue reading

For Those Who Care to Know That The Earth is Round

Every once in a long while, science hits us with some shattering updates. I’m not talking about finding a cure for a disease. I’m not even talking about decoding the human genome — we knew there was some code that we just didn’t decode yet. I’m talking about literally shattering news. What is shattered exactly? Our view of how everything works and functions. What’s the difference?

  • Going from thinking the common cold has no cure to finding out there is one
  • Going from thinking that the Earth is flat to finding out that it’s round (or thinking the Earth is the center of the universe and everything revolves around it to finding out we revolve around the sun)

The latter represents a shift in a wildly fundamental assumption we make about this entire thing around us we term “existence.” Would your life be any different if you didn’t know that the earth was round? Probably not. Regardless, it represents a place holder in this big image that we have in our head for how everything is. Continue reading

Choose to Have Bigger Problems

People have all sorts of problems. Some are trying to fix their back, others are trying to find a job, and many people hate their roommate. There will always be bills to pay and items that you want but can’t afford and neighbors that take your parking spot.

You can research chiropractors, spend your time networking, or move out on your own. You can save your money or look for a higher paying job, and you can figure out what time your neighbor comes home so you can beat him to the parking spot.

Albert Einstein’s problem was that we don’t understand where the world came from. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s problem was that people of his race were not treated fairly. If you asked these men if not having a parking spot was a problem, they would probably say “no.” Their mental energy was not spent on parking spots or empty milk cartons in the ‘fridge.

The law of problems: you will always have them. So choose yours wisely.

Focusing on Questions to Advance Your Self

When you are explaining something to a friend, one of the best ways (if not The best) to tell if they are following along is to pay attention to their questions. Have you ever experienced explaining something and, from the question the person asks, you can tell that they have missed the point entirely?

A question reveals where a person is mentally; embedded within the question is where they are and where they are looking to go. “Why do I get jealous of my friend?” shows that the questioning person 1. is honest with them self about an ugly feature of their personality, 2. has identified this process in their mind, and 3. is interested in understanding and most likely freeing themselves of jealousy. Continue reading

Perspective Change is Necessarily Good

I find that change in perspective is always going to be a good thing. And I say “good” in the context that might be the only context I subscribe to: obtaining knowledge. So, change in perspective is always good assuming that what is best is to keep learning more and more and doing away with ignorance.

Let me provide an example: Continue reading