March 17, 2014

I can't give you these fish

I read this post today by Seth Godin.  We often get caught up in emotional arguments for or against the actions we take.  I can't stand the way this person does x so I will be mean in return.  It would be so convenient for me if I just say y and I will be off the hook.  It's probably going to rain anyway, I'll just take my ball and go home.  Given any situation - someone picking on you, an opportunity for a dishonest way ahead, bashing instead of helping someone who isn't so nice - you have a choice.  There is always a choice between doing what feels good and what is right.  Why can't the right thing also be the one we like?  Don't know, but it rarely is.  Unless we change our perspective.

It feels good for ourselves when we eat the sweets, render some sort of revenge, or make an easy gain.  And yet when there's a choice between these good feelings and what's right; the two will almost always conflict.  Good health always beats out sugar.  A positive act for an arch rival enriches his life.  Kind words about somebody else defeats our bravado we think makes ourselves look good.  When we focus on ourselves, these decisions are hard.  When we allow our base and selfish emotions to lead the way, we choose poorly.  When I just know that the world revolves around me, nobody wins.

There are numerous traits, characteristics, actions, decisions.  Words have filled shelves about the qualities of leaders, friends, an respected elders.  Many are good, but few can really help you influence those around you.  Few are actually sources for other qualities that make us better.  So here's a list of decisions.  These actions mean putting the selfish emotions behind and focusing on the good that can be given.  They mean digging below the superficial, looking ahead, and working hard for the true value that comes with a selfless pursuit.  These items are a choice between feeling good for a short time or making good that can last:

Decide to be confident.

Decide your attitude.

Decide to be honest.

Decide to be courageous.

Decide to love.

Nobody can give you these qualities, they can only be taught, learned, practiced, failed, then practiced some more.  They are difficult: our own self interest tries to hijack them.  They all enable a positive that can be given once the decision is made.  They will all have lasting effects far beyond the time it takes to practice them.

March 9, 2014

I'm totally going to get a good performance review for this.

You chose to go fishing because I like to fish.  You wanted to to play with princesses because their pretty dresses make you happy.  At 5 years old, you are pretty good at shooting that Wal-Mart-purchased compound bow with 8 pounds of draw because you eventually want to hunt animals.  Your bikes, playground, and other "hobbies" you have as young girls make you happy.  I love it.  These activities keep you occupied, stimulate your imagination, work your hand-eye coordination, and give you real-world experiences that will help you grow into well-rounded people.  And at times they make me laugh.

At some point you'll pick a career.  Or a passion.  Something around which you will focus your lives.  The two may be one in the same.  Maybe the career will support the passion.  Whatever it may be, you will choose to do something because for you, it provides fulfillment.  It completes that need in you to do something larger than yourself; change for the better some portion of your sphere of influence.  I hope you find a cause into which you can dive head first.  For me it was the Marine Corps.  Yours may be the same, or real estate.  A stay at home mother.  Engineering.  Marketing.  Teaching.  Church.  Or any of the numerous respectable professions that make this world go.

Here's a danger:  You could become comfortable in your passion and forget that you began your journey down this road for a specific purpose.  A purpose greater than yourself.  And as you get established in your field, making decisions, it will be easy to start asking yourself: what will my friends think of me?  How will this make me look to those who work for me?  Or maybe the worse of all:  How will my boss react and how will it reflect on my performance review?

As soon as this becomes a concern, run!  You have now lost focus on the reason you became the person you did.  You have forgotten the purpose for which you have invested your time, talents, treasures.  No decision at this point will be the right one because you are making it for your boss.  Or your image.  Or something other than that higher purpose.  You have shifted your focus from the prize and any action you take will lead you astray.  It may find you a good report, but everyone else will see right through you.  You'll lose the respect or envy you so badly wanted.  Everything else that matters will suffer.  The passion in you will be lost.

I've seen this first-hand.  It's not pretty.  And at some point we've all probably made a decision for these wrong reasons.  You can recover, but remember the reasons you do the things you do.  Hold close to your passion.  Don't let yourself stray down the path of the passion-less.  Do not let your life become about how people think of you.  Do not let your life become about yourself.  Stay focused on your larger goals, make your decisions for the purpose of attaining them, and leave the focus on yourself somewhere else.  You can do the positive things you want when they, not yourself, are the prize.

March 7, 2014

They're break-dance fighting

Ladies, there are many positive things the Marine Corps has taught me.  Unfortunately, the following article and the Marine Corps mentality would probably conflict.  I think there's room for for the article's ideas to be incorporated into the mission-will-be-accomplished-or-else mentality of the Marine Corps:

The hard part will be balancing the increased productivity you've given yourself by such simple concepts with the perception that "[s]he doesn't do s&!*" when you implement them.  Unfortunately, not just in the military, people will judge you by how many hours you put in at work, or by how much time you spend at your desk/workspace.  Taking a walk in nature or reading a good fiction may not go over well with the boss or coworkers, even if it refreshes your mind and body.  If you're seen as the person who doesn't contribute, you may be pigeon-holed as ineffective, even if in reality you've built 1000 bridges, but taken the time to refresh yourself or maintain your family relationships.

As far as the Marine Corps goes, if you do the things in the article, just go somewhere else and tell people you've been at the gym.

March 3, 2014

He's so terrible, help is the last thing he needs.

He was struggling.  He knew his stuff, was smart enough, but when it came time to brief then execute the flight he would fumble.  He couldn't speak without uncomfortable pauses or explain a concept without the "ums" spreading throughout his words.  Malignantly the quirks, the hesitation would overtake everything he wanted to convey.  The brief was ineffective and once in the jet, he couldn't execute the procedures he knew so well.  A lack of confidence would be reinforced by mistakes and his confidence would spiral out of control until it overtook his ability to perform.  Circular.  Like a Merry-Go-Round.

It would be easy for the instructor cadre to complain about his consistently poor performance, or to find his weaknesses in performance to be chinks in his character.  It would be easy to close the door and gossip until the man was broken into human waste, at least in their minds.  This would be easy.  They would almost yearn for his continued mistakes just so they could vindicate the words they had said about him.  To look on with disgust and judgment, as if the performance defines the man.

This would be easy.  So the other's true character was displayed when he said, "I won't let this happen."  He took the man under his wing, to show him the way to control his nerves.  To reduce the quirks, calmly think about his words before delivery, systematically work through a maneuver while executing.  To prevent this man's character from the impending damage.  It will not be easy.  He will be frustrated.  But he knows it is the right thing to do.  The difficulty of the task solidifying his need to intervene.  So the man would improve.  So the man wouldn't fall.  So the fellow Marine would succeed, be a better tactician and aircrew.  So the man would remain a man.

Because he can.  Because he must.  Because it will be hard.  Because no one else will.