Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Would I Do

Been laid up sick the last few days, which has given me ample time for Netflix and napping.

Netflix does have a few gems.  Valkyrie is one of my all time favorite movies.  Not only is it about World War II, my all time favorite history subject, it's the only Tom Cruise movie out there that doesn't feature him running really fast.

"Watch me go zoooooooooooooooooom"

It's a true story about a German officer's plot to kill Adolf Hitler.  As the movie tells you, the Germans tried more than a dozen times to kill their Furher.  It's heartening that while so many millions hid behind the shield of "law" and "following orders," a few brave ones had the moral compass and the courage to stand up to evil.

Learning about the Holocaust, slavery, or even the segregated South in the 1950's always gets my blood boiling.  And I wonder, if I lived in one of these peculiar times in history when great injustice was the norm, would I have gone along with everyone else?  

Would I have actively participated in the wrong, telling myself I'm only following orders?  

Would I have known it was wrong but kept silent for fear of retribution?  

Would I have stood up for what's right?

What would you do?

I'd like to say I'd do what's right, but I don't know.  I'll probably never know until I'm in that situation.  Sometimes I'm surprisingly coward.  Other times I'm surprisingly brave.  I hope I'd be the kind of man like Colonel Stauffenberg, who Tom Cruise played in the movie.  

There is a lot of truth in the quote "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."

Sometimes the cost of being a good man is quite high.  In Nazi Germany, it'd probably cost you your life.  In America, it will often cost you your freedom.  I've thought a lot about Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and the like.  Whether or not you agree with them, these men (one now a woman) risked a lot to shed light on things our own government was doing that most Americans didn't know about.  Some of the things, like the NSA mass surveillance of nearly all Americans, the government had even lied about under oath before Congress.  Their penalty for shedding light on our government's secrets?  One is sentenced to jail for 35 years, and the other probably would be if he hadn't stayed in Russia.

In my eyes, both are heroes. They stood up to evil when they saw it.  How many other employees at the NSA just went along with violating Americans' constitutional rights because they were "following orders?"  Manning and Snowden cared more about what was right, and cared more about their country than any of the others who did something wrong, or unethical under the guise of "doing their duty."  They are heroes, and America needs more like them.


Monday, April 14, 2014

An Ominous Bike Ride

I'll finish up my series on my 10 year life plan soon.

Oregon's had an amazing run of good weather lately.  There is nothing like spring in Oregon after months of rain.  Today I took advantage and road my bike to school, a 7 mile jaunt through hops fields and vineyards.  On a clear day, like today was, I can see three of the Cascades, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.

Unfortunately, the road has narrow shoulders and the traffic goes pretty fast, so I'm always a little anxious riding.  As a bicyclist you're at the mercy of drivers.  99.9% are fantastic, but it just takes one idiot and it's lights out.

I was sadly reminded of this when I rolled up to a busy intersection, one I usually drive through every day, to find a van flipped over, and two pick ups smashed.  One belonged to a co-worker of mine who I think, is alright.  Other people I saw wheeled off to ambulances.  Hopefully everyone is ok.

Nonetheless, after school I bravely got back on my bike.  As I started to pedal, I noticed a little piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the frame.  It almost wasn't visible.  Stopping to grab it, I found this:

Displaying 20140414_212037.jpg
"You Died, Go Back to Start"
That creepy yellow piece of paper, well... creeped me out.  I realized quickly it was from a student's game they had made, but still.  

I made it home in one piece.  The worst thing that happened to me is I have a sore throat.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dog Tired

You know its a good day when you and your dog both can barely keep your eyes open.

I have a blanket draped over a Laz-E-Boy, it hangs over the back of the chair and touches the floor, creating a space in between that a little boy might call a fortress.  For my dog, it's his tired place.  He crawls in there when he can do no more for the day.  Sometimes he sits up, all covered in blanket, and he looks like a Scooby Doo ghost.

Why would a ghost wear a sheet anyways?

It was a dog-in-the-fortress kind of day.  The best kind of day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

10 Year Plan: The Most Important People in my Life are the Most Important Thing in My Life

I wrote out 6 core beliefs to plan the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Third on my list: the most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.

I used to believe that people are the most important thing in life.  That statement probably reflects my optimistic, non-confrontational nature.  I like to get along with everyone.  I want everyone to be my friend.

Now I qualify that statement to: The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.  There's quite a big difference between those two statements.  Before, I included the whole of mankind.  Now, just my immediate circle of family and friends.

That's not to say that all people aren't important.  I strongly believe they are.  And let me be clear, I believe I should treat even people I don't like with respect and kindness.  But by placing family and friends in the position of most important, I prioritize my life in the right way.  If we were to all divide the world into three simple categories based on our relationships it might look like this:

  • Family and friends.
  • Acquaintances, people you pass on the street, random folks on the bus, people we haven't met yet.
  • People we don't get along with.

Now, how should we rank those groups in order of importance?  A pretty simple question for most of us.  Family and friends should be first, acquaintances second, and people we don't like third.

Maybe my past self would call this social hierarchy sad and cynical, but I know now I can't make everyone like me all the time.  Having beliefs, having principles, having to make decisions invariably will upset someone.  And frankly, there are some people out there who just might not like me.  And try as I might, there are some people who I just don't like either!

At the same time, I have been blessed to have amazing people in my life.  Some I inherited by birth, like my mother and father.  Others I've found traveling through life, and for whatever reason they decide to call me friend.  However they came into my life, I am convinced that the friendship, loyalty, and experiences I share with these people make them worth more than anything I own or could possibly own.

Yet, my own behavior seems to show I rank them otherwise.  Lets take this scenario: a friend invites you out to an event you both want to go to, but you know someone you don't want see (ex girlfriend, sworn enemy, Miley Cyrus, i.e) will be there.  We've all been in this position.

Logically, I should let the people I don't like influence my life the least, so I should go to the event with my friend.  Yet, many times I elect not to spend time with my friend for fear of running into the person I don't like.  I place the person who should be at the bottom of my priority list on the top.  It makes no sense!

Indeed, sometimes the ones we love the most we treat the worst.  I can spend all day forcing myself to smile and be friendly to strangers, then snap at my girlfriend when I come home.  We fear the opinions of strangers more than those we love.  Maybe this becuase people who really care for us are the ones who have seen our ugly sides and our faults and love us anyway.  Maybe we think, "they'll still love for me anyway," while we put on a happy face in public because they probably won't.

Whatever the rationale, it shouldn't be that way.  Again, we shouldn't be rude, mean, etc to anyone (even those we don't like!), but we should definitely give our loved ones our best.  Put them first.  They are the ones who will be for you through the thick and thin.  The rest of the world?  If they are there at all, they sure won't be there for you when things get tough.

Family and true friends are treasure.  For the next 10 years of my life, it's my goal to treat them that way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Year Plan: Do One Thing At A Time

Sunday, I wrote out the 6 core beliefs that I'm trying to focus the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. Where you spend your time is who you are.
  4. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.
  5. Never let fear dictate anything.
  6. Money is a tool.
  7. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Second on my list: Do one thing at a time.

Humans are not capable of multi-tasking.  I know this because I've read it before.  Yet still I persist in trying to do more than one thing at a time, as if I've taken some evolutionary leap and the rules don't apply to me.

My experience fits what I've read.  When I try to do more than one thing at a time, I end up doing nothing.  The biggest culprit for me is my phone.  Literally, as I type these words, I want to grab it and read my Twitter feed.  Basically anything that glows attracts me like a moth.  Phone, TV, computer, all irresistible.  Perhaps I'm a product of my generation, but I feel  can only devote about 5 minutes to something before I seek distraction elsewhere.

To be more productive and achieve my lofty goals (which I'll post at the end of this series), I am trying to simply Do One Thing at a Time.  It sounds simple, and it is.  The benefits of focusing entirely on the task at hand are enormous.  First of all, the task gets done . Second, living in the moment is the only logical way to live.  We only get each moment, each minute, each day once.  Why live it distracted?

When I look at all the things I wish I had more time for, writing and working out mainly, I sometimes wonder how much I could get done if I devoted all my phone time to one of those tasks instead.  If I am normal for the millennial generation, it's arguable that I spend more time on my phone than doing any other particular thing throughout my day.  That's sad.  No one wants to look back at a life lived through a 2 inch by 5 inch screen.

It's hard to make new habits, and this has been my hardest habit to break.  I'm trying to leave my phone in my pocket more, and better yet at home.  I try to not mindlessly surf the web when I have work to do, or when I'm writing.  I try to live entirely in the moment.  It's not going to be easy, but more than anything else I attempt to do in the next 10 years of my life, doing one thing at a time will do the most to help me achieve my goals. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

10 Year Plan: Anything Worth Doing Will Be Hard

Yesterday I wrote out the 6 core beliefs that I'm trying to focus the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
The first on my list: Anything worth doing is hard.

You do only live once, and I want that life to count  I've always aspired to live an exceptional life and do exceptional things.  That's why I started this blog way-back-when in the first place.

The problem with being exceptional is this: it's hard.  Even my mundane, New Years Eve-like, goals take work.  Getting in shape, blogging regularly, and saving more money aren't particularly exceptional, and those aren't easy!

Then I think about some of the bigger ambitions I've aspired to over the years: Starting a non-profit or social enterprise that changes the world.  Being a life changing teacher.  Writing a book.  Those are extremely difficult to do. 

It makes sense, if it were easy to do exceptional things, everyone would do them.  We'd all be Mark Zuckerburgs running around starting social media empires.  By it's definition, an exceptional life is different than normal.  Everyone wants to be great, famous, recognized, etc.  But the majority of us, myself foremost, don't want to put in the amount of work necessary to achieve exceptionality.  We take the path of least resistance.  Why work hard to be a great writer, artist, athlete, what-have-you when something as easy as a sex tape can get you your 15 minutes of fame.  Or in my case, why work hard when you can watch Family Guy on Netflix when you get tired.

Exceptional people are weird,in a good way.   They have the discipline to do what is necessary to achieve their goals.  Without a doubt, I have not been exceptional in anyway at anything in the first 30 years of my life.  I have an assorted set of skills ranging from the decent (Being able to teach 7th graders about Ancient Rome), to the awful (golf).  There is nothing that I have devoted myself to being exceptional at, with the possible exception of Halo back in college.  

In the next 10 years of my life, I plan to change that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

10 Year Life Plan: The Long Term vs Short Term View of Life

The age of 30 has given me a little longer view of life.  Until recently, the "future" seemed distant and hazy.  The age 30 itself seemed old and scary.  I felt an urgency to do things now, and lived my life accordingly.

In some ways that's good, as I've certainly experienced a wide variety of things.  Between the ages of 19 and 23 I started a band, started a business, and lived overseas.  None lasted longer than a year, though

As a member of the instant gratification generation has brought some predictably bad results too.  Take financially, where rather than taking the slow and steady route, I've bounced around some get rich quick ideas ranging from the idiotic (I'll count cards in blackjack just like the MIT guys), to the arrogant (I can play the stock market like Bradley Cooper in Limitless!).  All have been expensive.

Recently a 70 year old relative came to visit.  You never have guessed he was 70.  He is mobile, active, and strong.  He just retired, and talks about all of his life's ambitions.  I had him pegged in the early 60's, until I found out otherwise.  He got me thinking, if all goes well, I have at least 40 good years left!  Then I asked myself this question: 

Knowing what I know now, and starting from where I am now, what do I want to do in 40 years?

*Now of course "if all goes well" is a pretty major caveat. I just watched Titanic, so I won't tempt fate and presume anything past today.  
"Unsinkable, eh? Mwahaha"
As I tried to answer that question, I was surprised that I couldn't.  At all.  The only answers I had were incredibly generic:  "Have kids" and "Be a billionaire!" 

Looking at my life more closely though, that doesn't surprise me.  I don't have direction or a plan, and instead have momentum from living day to day.  At age 23 I became a teacher, and have kept with it because I love it.  At age 26 I moved into a house, because I could.  At age 29, I found my wonderful girlfriend because I finally got the courage to talk to her after chickening out for over a year (true story).

Frankly, I think it is and was OK for me to not know everything I want out of life.  I don't want to live off some script.  Many of the best friends and experiences I have in life have come from unplanned and unexpected circumstances.  And especially when I was younger it was important to find my place in the world, so to speak. 

Now that I'm 30, I've figured out a lot more about what I believe in and who I want to be.  I've laid out at 10 year plan for myself, organized on the following six beliefs about life:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Over the next week I'll be explaining each, then I'll share my 10 year plan at the end.