Sit Down and Shut Up

SitdownSometimes it is directly said and sometimes it is an expectation.  Much of our education system has been working with this paradigm for decades.  The idea is that sitting down and being quiet leads to better grades, more retention, better students and better employees.  In all honesty, I don’t truly have a problem with the idea of sitting down and shutting up provided that there is also an opportunity to stand up and make a ruckus.  This opportunity to SUMR used to happen outside of school but most activities are now adult driven.   In a recent interview, I was asked “why do you think teens are so stressed today?”  The answer to the question is relatively simple but the resolution is much more complex.

The simple answer is expectation.  The modern teenager has been thrust into a world of paradoxical expectation.  For years on end, kids today are taught that the secret to survival is to sit down, shut up and follow directions.  Those who learn these lessons are lauded for a few years until they reach a point where they need to make their own decisions.  At that point, they are expected to know how to use their judgement but that faculty has never been exercised and is therefore weak.  Those who rebel against the SDSUFD model are labeled as troublemakers and given fewer opportunities for advancement.  They see that the system doesn’t like them and they don’t care for the system either.  Systems are only valuable as long as they work.  SDSUFD only partially works and needs to be adjusted.

Humans were built for action.  We were meant to fly!  Unfortunately the mixture of old systems and new circumstances have clipped our wings or made us believe that we have none.  We’ve been made to believe that we are supposed to wait for someone else to tell us what to do.  That we are supposed to be more robotic, more efficient and less emotional.  This is completely contrary to everything that human beings are.  We are animals that are most efficient when our emotions are in line with our objectives.

So what does this mean for each of us?

If you are a teenager, you need to balance your daily SDSUFD with SUMR.  You need to have an outlet, either mental, physical and/or emotional that you choose.  Begin the process of getting your hands onto the steering wheel of your life.  You’re most likely not ready to have full control of your life yet but you should not be in the backseat either.

If you’re in your twenties or older, take a hard look at your life and decide how much of your life belongs to you.  This is not a call to buck all authority or burn every bridge in your life.  It is a call to more action for your own betterment.  Sometimes that action will be that you need to “sit down, shut up and listen”.  Then you need to stand up and act on what you’ve heard.  Step forward and take your role as the star of your own TV show.  If you are playing a secondary role in someone else’s show, then you need to rewrite the script.

Take today as if it belonged to you because truly it does.



On Tour Now!

AdeleOn Thursday of this past week, tickets for Adele’s tour went on sale.  Through some minor internet miracle, I was able to get a pair of tickets for my wife and daughter.  They both love Adele and were extremely excited about their good fortune.  This will be my daughter’s first concert.  My wife commented that our kids have done pretty well for their first concerts: Foo Fighters at CitiField and Adele at Madison Square Garden.  By comparison, my wife first saw the Beach Boys (way past their prime) at Waterloo Village and I saw Poison at the Meadowlands.  I’m not sure that most people’s first concert experience has a big effect on them but mine did.  Please share in the comments what was the first concert that you attended.

The reason that my first concert was memorable had nothing to do with Poison.  I actually much preferred the opening act, Tesla.  After that concert, I went to Sam Goody or some other record store and bought “The Great Radio Controversy”.  It was a decent album but the music eventually became secondary to the process that it started.  The liner notes to the album explained the name of the band and what the great radio controversy was about.  After reading that bit of information, I looked further into Nikola Tesla.  It was the first time that I remember using an encyclopedia for something that was not school related (the internet was not available).  Music was a gateway to exploring information and ideas that  would not be presented in school.  This habit continued through high school with my interest in punk rock which helped to expand my vocabulary and thought processes.  At this point in my life, this form exploration is second nature and the internet has made it much easier.

The one thing that I try to avoid is getting caught in a complete echo chamber.  Although we have infinite amounts of information available to us, many people get caught listening to the same messages continuously.  This is not to say that all things are worthy of our attention.  It is important to consider what you value and be open to new possibilities when they come along.  Poison was an OK concert to begin with but if I was still only listening to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, I’d be worried about myself.  Although we tend to think of ourselves in very concrete terms, we should be anything but stagnant.  Seeking out the next step seems to be a better strategy than waiting for someone to tell us where to go.

Adele is on tour now because she is relevant at the moment.  There is nothing wrong with going to see Poison provided that you realize that they’re a nostalgia act.  Visiting the past is enjoyable.  Living in the past can be dangerous.  The past is unchangeable.  The present is our one opportunity to affect the future.  Decide what you need in order to take your show on the road and be tour now.




Your Investment Portfolio

DisneyHanging on the wall in my son’s room is a stock certificate for one share of Disney stock.  It was a gift at his birth from his Uncle Peter and Aunt Paula.  More than anything it is decorative.  At the time of its purchase, Disney stock was worth about $35.  With the acquisition and release of Star Wars, it is now worth about $114.  So in theory my son’s stock portfolio has performed very well.  It is worth over 300% of its original value.  The growth is outstanding but it’s not enough shares to create truly meaningful value.  The stock was a gift, never truly meant to turn my son into an investor.

However the truth is that we are ALL investors!  Stocks are a financial investment.  That is the type of investment that most people think about when they hear the word.  The truth is that we can invest in many types of currency.  Right now you’re investing several of your most precious currencies on this blog post: time, attention and possibly trust.  Many people don’t get involved in monetary investing because the markets are too unpredictable.  There is the risk of major losses at stake.  It is impossible to lose money, if you don’t put any in.  People are usually conscious of how they invest their money.  Often they are not as conscious about how they invest their other resources.

Time, attention, trust, love, respect and many others are all currencies that should be invested with more intelligence than money.  Money is a renewable resource while time is not.  If you lose twenty dollars, you can always make up for that loss.  The lost twenty minutes is gone forever with no hope of replacement.  Since money is tangible we give it extra reverence but these other currencies are as or more important.  So perhaps it is time to look at your investment portfolio and decide if it is balanced.  Have you put yourself into a position to be swimming in the assets that you have accrued through careful planning?  Or will you feel bankrupt in the end because you squandered the resources that you had?  You are an amazing human being who is destined to do great things if you’ll use your resources wisely!

Invest wisely today!



Weight is Invisible

weightAs we approach the New Year, there will be plenty of people that will resolve to lose a certain amount of weight.  As we endeavor to do anything, it is important that we identify what we TRULY want and not some facsimile or symptom.    If someone wants to lose ten pounds, the quickest way to do so would be to do the following:

  1. drink as much water as possible
  2. weigh self
  3. get on a plane to Denver or some other high altitude city
  4. go to the bathroom on the plane
  5. weigh self after landing

The above process is definitely “gaming” the system but it brings into plain view one fact. Weight is only partially measuring the thing that you think that you care about.  It is also measuring how much gravity is pulling on you.  You are one space shuttle ride away from losing all the weight that you have.  The things that are truly important are: health, energy, vitality, self-esteem, self-image, or a variety of other things.  Weight is a system of measurement without a doubt but it is not the only system of measurement.

The world is changing and many of the systems that we have clung to are breaking down.  As this breakdown continues, it is important to look at what you value most.  Are you merely “gaming” the system?  Are you going after real results that have the value that you’re looking for?  As a teacher, I see it all the time.  The desire for the short term grade rather than the long term knowledge or skills is pervasive.  In the long run, the grade is almost worthless without the knowledge or skills.  It is not the only system that is broken.  We can take valuable fruit from the broken systems but only if we’re willing to see.  Weight is invisible but if we look in the right places, we can see what really matters rather than accurately measuring what doesn’t.



Go Force Yourself!

StarWarsIn a week’s time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a cultural phenomena throughout the United States and the world.  Millions of people will wait in line to be thrilled by the adventures of old and new heroes from “a galaxy far, far away.”  As we (yep, Luke and I have tickets) sit there in the seats watching the new chapter of this modern day myth, some people will let their imaginations soar for two hours.  Unfortunately that is where it will stop for many.  The reason why Star Wars resonates with so many people is that it follows the formula of many of the greatest myths in history.

In his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” Joseph Campbell deconstructs what he called the hero’s journey.  For thousands of years, people have been retelling similar versions of the same basic story.  The reason why it works is because the formula involves a regular person who is “called to adventure”.  The fact that the hero’s journey is focused upon the development and ultimate triumph of the “every-man” makes it an almost irresistible hook for the general public.  It is easy to see one’s self being called to a spectacular adventure and answering that call.  Although we can picture ourselves answering the call to adventure, the call often does not come or is imperceptible.

In most of our lives, there are very few “calls to adventure”.  The call needs to come from within.  Expecting that the world is going to lift your butt off the couch and force you to do something great is foolish.  Besides if a Sith Lord showed up at your door looking for a lightsaber duel, you’d probably sh– your pants.  I would.  You need to read the signs and choose your own adventure.  Force yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone.  Force yourself to be better than you’ve been in the past.  Force yourself to engage with people and circumstances that would thrill you.  GO FORCE YOURSELF because then you’ll have something to do until Episode 8 is released.  Enjoy the movie and enjoy your life.

May the Force be with you.




It Is What It Is (Or It Isn’t)

fingerOn Saturday at the park, my daughter cut her finger.  Nothing that required stitches but enough that pressure alone wasn’t stopping the bleeding.  I looked through the van for a band aid but came up empty.  So I took a napkin and some duct tape to fix up the problem.  “Dad, that’s not a band aid.”  She was right.  It wasn’t.  That didn’t matter to me and once it worked it didn’t matter to her either.  At a certain point, results are what we’re really after.  When you don’t have what you need, use what you have.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing things like that.  Finding a solution for a problem with limited or unorthodox resources.  Perhaps I watched too many episodes of McGyver when I was a kid.  Or perhaps I care too little about form and put an overemphasis on function.  Regardless of the why, I have an affinity toward multidimensional thinking and it scares me.

I’m not scared because I do it but rather because so many young people that I know do not.   It is not particularly their fault.  Our society has curved off so many of the jagged edges that it is almost impossible to develop resourcefulness organically.  We can blame it on the internet, the government or any other scapegoat that is popular today but that’s the heart of the same one dimensional thinking that is the root of this problem.  Blaming a lack of resources or poor circumstances for our failure won’t get us anywhere but stuck.  People are far too quick to figure out who to hold accountable and very few people are stepping up asking to be responsible.

In essence that is where this blog started, the ability to respond to a problem with a solution that was irregular.  A napkin is a napkin, until it’s a band aid.  A problem is a problem until it is an opportunity.  Each of us has the opportunity to look at our own lives and see where we can push the limits of what is expected.  You have unique resources available to you.  How can you use them to make the world of those around you a little better?  What problem is out there for you to create a unique solution for?  You are who you’ve always been until you’re not.

Go out and do something great today!





The Measure of a Man

birthdaycakeToday I turn 40 years old.  This is a seemingly important milestone for many people.  I’m not really feeling it though.  The number is almost a non-factor for me.  My childhood friend, Lia Fritz, was the first person who made me think deeply about how age worked.  She was born on February 29th and would state that she was 3 years old when she was 12 and so on.  Although she was only joking, it started me thinking.  What if we changed the measurement of age?  It makes little sense to only measure life by years.  On that scale of measurement, my life is on even terms with anyone else born December 7th, 1975.  Maybe life isn’t best measured in years.

Some systems of measurement lend themselves to easy conversion.  A 100 meter race can simply be changed to a 109.361 yard race.  It seems strange to make it a 1/16 of a mile race but it’s better than 1/420 of a marathon.  By comparison the 100 meter run seems minuscule when measured by marathons.  These conversions give a perspective that the perception of the magnitude of something can be influenced by how it is measured.  There are many people who have lived for a many years but those years were seemingly empty.  What is the right metric for measuring the life of a man?

There are so many metrics that could be used to measure a life.  If my life were measured in economic terms from an American perspective, I’ve lived a very average life.  In economic terms of an Ecuadorian, I’m doing very well.  If measured by miles, I’ve traveled to six foreign countries and visited over half of our United States.  My life could be viewed as very full.  If measured by the number of Grateful Dead concerts that I’ve attended, then I’ve not lived at all.  With so many metrics to choose, it is important to choose wisely with something that represents our purpose on this planet.

For me personally, I measure my life by the people that I’ve been able to help.  It may seem like a random way to measure a life and in many ways it is almost immeasurable.  Those limitations to my system do not bother me in the slightest.  It makes me more comfortable than the idea of my existence being reduced to the number of years that I’ve been alive.  One may be more exact than the other but my metric is in line with my life’s purpose and actually propels me forward toward better experiences.   Having more time is not particularly a desirable commodity unless it is being used for something worthwhile.

Today may not be your calendar birthday but it may be a new opportunity to measure your life in a way that means something to you.  So go into the world today with the purpose of identifying how you measure your life and pursue it.  Happy Birthday to you!



Life of Unopened “Cans”

cansIn my parents’ cupboard when I was a kid, there were canned products that we used all the time.  Chicken noodle soup, tomato paste and green beans were in heavy rotation toward the front door.  They would come in, go out and be replaced by their can cousin at the next shopping trip.  Toward the back of the cupboard were the ancient staples like the can of cream of mushroom from 1985 or its even stranger companion, evaporated milk (no idea what that is).  These cans were born with purpose and hope.  However their lives never reached fulfillment because they were forgotten after they were crossed off of the grocery list and standing by for “someday”.  Having the can in the cupboard was enough.  We never actually had to do anything with it.

As I edge ever closer to 40 years old, I look at my unopened “cans” and I am awestruck by what I’ve left behind.  I’m no longer talking about tin and aluminum but rather the things that I left undone because I know that I can, so I don’t have to.

  • I can lose 15 lbs, so I don’t have to.
  • I can run that 10 mile race in 1:15:00 or less, so I don’t have to.
  • I can reach out to great friends and family at any time, so I don’t have to.
  • I can be a great husband, so I don’t have to be all the time.
  • I can go to the gym daily and get into great shape, so I don’t have to.
  • I can make something better of myself, so I don’t have to.

The knowledge that “I can” has kept me from doing so many things that I know that I should.  The problem with most of these cans is that I know that I can because I’ve done them before.  If these unopened cans were put into regular use, my life would be exponentially better.  Perhaps it’s time to open some of these cans and see, not what’s inside of them but what’s inside of me.  (Note: not everything that you can do falls into the “SHOULD” category.  Some cans are better left on the shelf.)

Is your cupboard full of dusty cans?  Did I just open up a “can of worms”?  Or do you now feel the need to open a “can of whoopass” on yourself and your life?  As you find the courage to do the things that you know that you can, you’ll also see the possibility of doing some things that you thought you could not!

You can!