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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Could you be a genius?

Genius. It's a term admired, wondered about and endlessly debated as to its meaning. But could it apply to everybody?

Most people think of genius in terms of being some rare gift that only the exceptionally lucky are born with. No use trying to get it because you either have it or you don't.

That's the easy way out. A cop-out. That way you don't have to try. Why, if only the Mozarts and Einsteins and Michaelangelos of the world have it, should you try?

The fact of the matter is that Mozart and Einstein and Michaelangelo—although certainly not dim-witted or bereft of talent—all worked their butts off to achieve the things they did.

When Einstein died his brain was preserved and it turned out to be smaller than average. He famously once said: "It's not that I'm so smart; I just stay with problems longer."

Mozart, who everyone loves to think of as having been born with genius, truly of course was talented, but his early childhood compositions were rudimentary. And he was a tireless worker and a lifelong learner. When he came across the work of fellow composer J.S. Bach he said:  "At last, someone from whom one can learn!"

And, Michaelangelo, painter of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of "Pieta" and designer of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, said: "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."

You can see that what led to that statement was people endlessly telling him how wonderful it must be to be born and blessed with the talent and genius he possessed. Michaelangelo set them straight that was definitely not the case.

So could you be a genius?

Undoubtedly, it takes a certain level of intelligence and talent to begin with, but beyond that, if you're willing to go after it with everything you've got, you may end up being the next Mozart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Has entertainment become our God?

Hey, I like entertainment. But I've been amazed at how obsessed our culture has become with it.

The average American household spends nearly $3,000 a year on it. Look at the tabloids, the Oscars. Actors become major celebrities, even sometimes authorities. Reality TV show stars become presidential candidates. A Justin Bieber YouTube video was watched over a billion times. Netflix, streaming movies and TV shows on smart phones. People can't seem to get enough.

But are we missing anything in all the frenzy? Have we maybe replaced more important things with entertainment?

I remember reading an article about parents taking their young family to Yellowstone National Park for a vacation. The kids complained. They didn't want to go.

"But we'll get to camp out in the wilderness, see buffaloes and sunsets," the father said.

"Sunsets are boring," his daughter replied.

I grew up near a park. During the summer we played baseball there and wore out a major patch of the lawn for the home plate area and pitcher's mound, and smaller areas for the bases. In the fall we wore out the whole center of the park grass playing football. Everybody played. It didn't matter how good you were. It was the thing to do.

Today, years later, that lawn is in perfect shape. And it's been ages since I've even seen a single person in the park. 

Because today everything is online. It's video games. Movies. Twitter. Whatever. I'm not knocking it. I'm a part of it all. I enjoy technology.  But aren't there more important things than entertainment? Aren't we somehow missing out by being glued to glowing screens?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How me and God made a difficult decision

I have a hard time making decisions. It once took me four hours to buy a pair of shoes at Kohls. I kept walking around the department store, getting very familiar with the various departments and even starting to recognize some of the employees by sight. A nice salesgirl had been helping me for a while and she must've gotten called to another department for a couple of hours, and when she returned to the shoe department and ran across me she said: "ARE YOU STILL HERE?"

I was like, Well, yeah.

So last night I was walking outside. (Seems I do a lot of walking.) Just my usual jaunt around the neighborhood. It was around 9:30 and a pretty decent night, maybe fifty still, not windy. And as I was walking down this long block I saw a car in a driveway. The car had a weak light glowing on the inside. Sure enough, as I got closer I could see that the car's roof light had been left on.

It was late. The house was dark. There was no outside light on. I could see faint light inside, shifting as if a TV were on, behind the curtains. I hoped that the car's roof light would turn off automatically, but I felt it probably wouldn't. In fact, it already seemed to be waning.

Ugh. I dreaded the idea of knocking on the door. What if it was an old person and they had a heart attack? I mean, I don't know about your neighborhood but nobody knocks on doors after say maybe seven p.m. here. My walking route called for going around this park and so I figured I'd keep walking and come back to the car to see if the light was still on.

Off I went. And of course I was thinking about the light and what I would do if it was still on. I weighed the pros and cons. Pros: the person doesn't have a dead battery when he gets up to go to work in the morning. Cons: the person has a heart attack when some stranger (me) knocks on their door in the middle of the night.

Okay, I told myself, maybe they won't have a heart attack. And I asked myself, what would I want done if the car were mine? I decided I'd want to be a little startled and have my car start in the morning.

But still I didn't feel like knocking on their door. That clearly made me a bad guy. An interrupter at best. A terrifier at worst. Yes, I was wavering in my thinking that I was going to knock.

I was getting close to returning to the car now and yep, the roof light was still on. Darn it, I thought. Why did I have to make this decision? I was just out for a relaxing walk and now my stomach was tied up in knots.

But I was coming up on the car. In a half a block I'd be there. I didn't want to stop walking (I still had a long way to get back home).

Well, I'd done all I could. I was willing to knock or not knock. The selfish part of me wanted to keep going by, rationalizing that maybe the car would start in the morning anyway, or maybe somebody else who lived there would yet be returning and would see the light, or that I was sparing somebody from having a heart attack, yada yada yada. The other part of me knew knocking was the right thing to do.

So, willing to go either way, and with the car right there, I gave it God. You know what, I was still a little keyed up, but I had a peace and a conviction come right over me. I walked up the sidewalk and rang the doorbell. But no one came to the door. I rang again. Still nothing. Great, I thought. So I gritted my teeth, pulled open the storm door and knocked.

There was a translucent little window in the door and I could see that somebody came up behind it. But they didn't open the door. I called, "The roof light is on in your car." After a few seconds, I could hear the deadbolt turning. The door opened.

It was a young guy (I'm pretty sure he didn't have a heart attack) and I told him I was sorry to be knocking so late but that his car's roof light was on.

"Oh," he said, looking over my shoulder and out at the car. "Thank you so much!"

As I walked away I could hear the car's door open and shut and the car start up.

Monday, March 28, 2016

How do you react when squeezed?

It's easy to think we know who we are. We roll along through life and I mean, come on, who doesn't think they're a good person. And yeah, life pretty much affirms that that's the case...until someone cuts you off in traffic, or the IRS triples your real estate taxes or you find out your spouse cheated on you.

It's then—when life squeezes you—that you really find out what's inside you.

It's like they say, when you squeeze an orange you get orange juice and pulp and seeds. You don't get guacamole. But not so with us. When you squeeze "good" us, you often get anger and fear and disillusionment.

It's only when the pressure's on that we know our truest self. That's why sometimes the real heroes in life are the people you'd least expect it from—because what's deep inside a person is often impossible to see on the surface.

The old adage is you won't know what you would do if a baby fell into a well until a baby falls into a well.

So next time things go wrong and you get squeezed, then you'll see who you really are.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The secret benefit of kindness

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. —Mark Twain

Okay, it's great to be kind to others, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about the secret way in which kindness benefits you.

It's simple. When you're a kind person, it not only benefits others but it benefits you. Because if you're a kind person, yes, you'll be kind to others but you'll also be kind to yourself.

Think about it. How many times do you beat yourself up for a multitude of reasons? We can be so hard on ourselves. But again, if you're a kind person you're going to be kind to yourself.

Don't you like spending time with kind people? Well, you spend 24/7 with yourself. Wouldn't it be nice to have such a kind companion?

So cultivate kindness. Show it to everyone. Unfailingly. Aggressively. Before you know it you'll be showing that same kindness to yourself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Is life a mirror?

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. —Anais Nin

Any idea, person or object can be a Medicine Wheel, a mirror for man. —Hyemeyohsts Storm

Can life be that simple? What we see, how we perceive the world is within us, not outside? The evidence points that way. Take what's called "The Rashomon effect." Several people see the exact same incident but perceive the event in contradictory ways. While that may bring memory into the equation, it still suggests a more subjective, as opposed to objective, way of seeing the world.

There's the classic example of a group of people spending a night on a mountaintop. One person experiences the peace of nature. Another is bored. A third is afraid a bear is going to rip the tent—and his entrails—open.

But there's even more evidence within ourselves. It's what's inside us that makes the difference. I heard someone use the example of a homeless person living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Take, say, the next four days the person will be facing. It doesn't look good. No, how could it. But what if that selfsame homeless person had a winning lottery ticket for a million dollars and just had to wait the four days to collect the money?

It would make those four days much more tolerable, no? Perhaps it would even make them pleasurable as the person anticipates the relief and pleasure that is on the way.

So next time you're walking down the street and the world seems wonderful or ugly or generous or cruel or however it seems, don't be thinking it's the world outside you that's causing your perception. Take a look inside.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Are you following the herd?

A friend and I were talking not long ago. She said she was going to read the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I asked her if she knew what type of book it was. She said, "Yeah. Mommy porn." I wondered about that for a minute, and knowing that my friend really wasn't a 'mommy porn' sort of person asked, "Well, why are you reading it, then?" She said, "To see what all the buzz is about."

Hey, people do what they do. Life is tough. I'm not judging her or anybody else. But what I am wondering about is doing something just because everybody else is doing it.

That never caught on with me. Maybe I'm missing out, but I've never read The DaVinci Code, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or whatever. Pick a blockbuster and chances are I haven't read it or seen the movie. And I'm sure a lot of those things are good. They just never appealed to me. And I have things that appeal to me. I'm not some sort of Mr. Spock, emotionless, unreachable.

But I never do something just because somebody else (or billions of people, for that matter) are doing it. Maybe it was because of how my mother raised me. I can remember saying to her (countless times): 'Can I do this (fill in the blank)?' Mom: "No." Me: "But my friend Timmy's mom is letting him do it!" And my mother would say: "I don't care if every single person in the whole world is doing it; you're not."

Even as a kid (even though I didn't like it!) that made sense to me.

So nowadays I pick and choose what I do because I want to do it. Not because of what everybody else is doing. Let the crowd and herd mentality go its merry way. I just won't be joining it.