100 Things To Do Before You Die #5 - Live a Day As a Homeless Person
This isn’t an attempt to get you to feel sorry for homeless people, or inspire you to get all homeless people back on their feet. I don’t care to do that, and I wouldn’t push you to do it. This is more about appreciating what a homeless person endures, whether that person is responsible for his or situation or not.
You see, I had to live like a homeless person for one night in the winter when I was younger. It was a semi-controlled environment, but I was indeed hungry, thirsty, and left out in the freezing cold with nothing but a layer of clothing. I had to find water, shelter, more clothes and a way home. It wasn’t impossible, but it was a challenge. I was very conscious of the attention I attracted as well.
I started to appreciate how resourceful and creative homeless people need to be. I also realized how hard it is to spend an entire night in the cold. A few weeks later I walked past a young kid in another city, on the street begging for money and freezing his ass off. I didn’t feel a need to give him any money, but I knew how cold he was. So I bought him a cup of warm coffee, knowing it would warm him up and give him a reason to go into a warm coffee place for a few minutes (otherwise you risk getting kicked out for loitering).
At the end of the day, son, we’re all human beings. You don’t need to be a bleeding heart, but a little compassion never hurt anyone. And shared experiences tend to inspire compassion where it might otherwise not exist. You’re not going to change the world with a cup of coffee, but you will feel better doing things like that when you know how helpful they can be.
Christianity and America
I don’t write much in your blog these days son, but there are a few topics I have thought about covering for a while now. They are all tough topics to cover, so I have waited till I was sure what I wanted to say. Here’s a thought on Christianity in America.
If you don’t know, when I wrote this to you I was not Christian. I say “was not,” because who knows what I’ll believe 20 years from now (I don’t imagine I’ll change much). However, despite the fact I am not a Christian, I tend to respect the fact that a large majority of Americans are, and have been for all of our history. I see today a lot of people fighting Christianity in America, and doing it aggressively. They want to mitigate the influence of Christians and force them out of public discourse. They want their symbols removed from public spaces. I don’t get that.
I guess I feel like many of them are hypocrites, because if they moved to another country their stance would likely be one of tolerance. If they were in a Muslim country, for example, they might take the time to learn and appreciate the influence Islam had on that country’s culture and government. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is exactly what I would encourage people to do in America.
You see, Christianity is not a fundamental part of our government and culture (even though many would dispute that), but Christians are. And if you think our country has contributed to the world or if you enjoy living here, then you must give Christians some credit for that. We are surrounded by good people who believe in Christ, and the truth is that people like me are the minority. Now that doesn’t mean I need to fall in line and shut my mouth. You don’t either. However, a little politeness and tolerance might not be such a bad thing.
Work Tip #82 - You Catch More Flies With Honey Than You Do With Vinegar
Once, when I was in a pretty challenging job, I had an assignment that required a client of mine to participate in a fairly new and somewhat buerocratic process. I had worked hard within my organization to commit to the process, learn it well, and navigate it successfully so I could continue to do the good work we did. The process was cumbersome, and it was easy to get annoyed with those who weren’t committed to their part. The harder I worked on my part, the easier everyone else’s seemed to be … and the more frustrated I became with them for not doing it.
Needless to say, my client was not doing his part and I was frustrated I couldn’t get him the support he required. I complained to my peers and superiors about the client, and we all offered solutions, some of which included not supporting him at all. That was definitely something I didn’t want to do; I wanted to do the right thing and provide the support. It was an important job after all. So I made the choice to travel to the client’s location and force the process through, whatever I had to do.
When I arrived my effort began with an “honest” conversation about how he and his organization wasn’t providing the correct documents for me to proceed. I explained the process and told him that it was necessary to do these things to move forward. It was a very arrogant move to make on my part, thinking I would just talk to the client in person and show him what he needed to do. This was about the point that I took a step back, began to reflect on my history with the client, and realize I was going about it all wrong.
My epiphony occurred one evening, when a couple of co-workers and I were bullshitting with the client at the end of the day. My co-workers hadn’t met him before and found him pretty interesting. He really was an older and interesting guy. He had done a lot. I saw him open up and start to tell them all these stories about what he had done in his career. I stayed quiet and just observed the change of character, and that’s when it hit me. I hadn’t made much effort at all to create a personal relationship with him. It was business all the time. I was so consumed by my own work, I forgot to schmooze a bit. I immediately invited him out for a couple of beers and within a couple of hours we were all relaxed and sharing our own war stories. He talked about young “college” kids whom he had interacted with in other jobs, which gave me some insight into how he may have viewed me (I was about 20 years younger than he was at the time). I shared stories about my past and told him some things he probably hadn’t realized, like the fact we both had long military careers, had both served in several wars, and both had sons.
In essense, I had become a likeable guy instead of some annoying “shit” making his job hard. Being consumed in my own process made me lose sight of what his process looked like. On a side note, this is why it is good sometimes to work in teams.
So this is kind of long … I should get to the point. The point is that you will always get more accomplished by appeasing people. It is easier sometimes to vent your frustration and assert your authority or guidance, especially if you feel it’s justified, but that seldom works. It feels good, because you feel justified and perhaps don’t feel others deserve to be appeased. However, the point is to get the job done and get it done well, regardless of what you think people deserve. You just waste time and reduce productivity trying to get people to behave as you think they should behave. And in the end of the day, you are probably wrong anyway. I was in this example. The guy wasn’t a bad guy. He just had a preconception of what kind of person I was, and wasn’t very motivated to do what I required of him. After all, he was busy too. I had to make it worth it for him, and becoming a likeable guy made it a little easier.
I had captured his cooperation, and I did it with honey when vinigar had failed.
Life Tip #8 and Work Tip #41 - You Can Only Do So Much, So Relax
There is going to come a point in your life when you are going to have too much on your plate. Too many work tasks, too many chores, or more than likely a mixture of both. When this happens, you will probably begin to stress … and maybe even get a bit anxious.
This occurs because your mind is trying to organize and plan more than you are physically or mentally capable of doing. Your mind can’t organize it all, so it organizes nothing. And this is when you start to lose it, because you feel like NOTHING is getting done, and NOTHING will ever get done.
And you are absolutely right.
How can anything get done when you try to do more than you are capable of doing? How can you plan when there’s not enough time or energy to meet the end of your plan?
You can’t, so don’t. When you start to feel that way, take a breath, choose what you are going to do, and do it. Don’t worry about the rest. What can you do about it? You just have to accept it’s not going to get done. And what are you worried about? Honestly, who can blame you for not doing more than you are capable of doing?
That’s the trick Charlie. I know, you probably thought I was going to give you some cool trick to sort it all out. Sorry, this is the reality of being human, and not super-human.
We are only capable of doing so much in a day, son. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take a breath, do what you can, and get some rest. Trust me, everything will still be waiting for you tomorrow.
Life Tip #78 - The Secret to Ironing
I figure the iron has been around for at least five decades, so it’ll probably still be around when you read this. If it is, I’m confident you will hate to use it as much as your mother and I do.
So I’m going to share with you the secret to ironing quickly, easily, and as infrequently as possible.
The first secret is to not overstuff your dryer. Overstuffing the dryer and leaving the clothes in the machine long after it is done are the two biggest contributors to wrinkles. Would you believe it if I told you that just removing clothes quickly and folding them can almost completely eliminate the need for an iron? It’s true.
Also, shake your clothes out before you place them in the dryer. You have to give them a chance at least! Come on man.
All that said, if you still have to face the iron, there are ways to make it less painful. Make sure you fill your iron with water, and turn the steam and heat up high. This is the most common setting for all clothes. Silk is about the only material that can’t handle this … in my experience anyway.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of the ironing board. It has a straight and pointy end for a reason. Learn to use them.
Your pants can go on the straight end like your trying to dress the board in them. This will help you iron the back of your pants, without the front getting in the way … and visa versa. The corner of the flat end can also go into the arms of your button shirts, and the rest of the shirt can go straight down the side. This makes it easy to break the shirts into three sections (two front sections, and the back). You can bend collars over the corners of the board, and place the pant legs and arms straight over the flat ends (sides or end of the board).
Bottom line, the board is essential. So don’t be cheap and try to place a towel on your kitchen counter instead. ;)
Lastly, don’t iron clothes while they’re on your body. I know it’s tempting … but it doesn’t work son. You will definitely burn yourself.
Hope that helps.
Till next time.
Remembering to Cry
A few days ago I was watching you cry at the table, while I was trying to feed you dinner. It was nothing big, you were crying because I wouldn’t let you rip your little high-chair apart (imagine that). I told your mom that I was going to let you cry, because there wasn’t anything wrong with you and I knew you just needed to get it out.
So you did. You cried for about two or three minutes, and I just sat there waiting … and watching.
While I watched, I thought about how much of a release crying is. How relaxed we are once it ends. I remembered days when I was young, and I would cry about something, and then lay in my bed with this great sense of relief. How good I felt to get it all out. Usually I would get inspired afterwards and do something productive … like rearrange my room! (That’s about as productive a 10-year-old can be.)
But now I don’t cry anymore. Instead, I “tear up” like most adults. I hold it in, which actually feels way worse. It kind of sucks actually. And because I don’t cry over simple things like a child does, I don’t get many opportunities to do it. In fact, the few opportunities I do get, such as sad movies and inspiring commercials, I squander by holding it in. That’s what we do. It’s what we’re taught to do.
What a shame! Crying is emotionally satisfying, relaxing, and even inspiring. It’s a part of our biology. There’s something crying does to us physically that is meant to help us endure. I see proof of it every time you stop crying. You are relaxed, and you end up finishing what you started. Yesterday you just finished your dinner. But who knows? Maybe 30 years from now you’ll finish a plan to save your new business … or your marriage. My point is to not let your ego prevent the good cry that just may get you there.
The Best Protection From Common Criminals is a Big Dog
In order for me to make my point on this post, Charlie, I have to write it with two assumptions. Those assumptions are:
1) Common criminals come from bad neighborhoods, and …
2) Dogs in bad neighborhoods are usually poorly trained and unpredictable.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely, but there’s no point in considering those when it comes to this topic. We’re trying to stop a criminal, not publish a social science report.
So my opinion is take advantage of the likelihood that a criminal casing your house, your car or even you is going to be scared to follow through with his plan if there’s a large dog in his way. It’s really as simple as that.
Better yet, if you can train your dog off-leash, do it. Nothing scares people more than a dog with no leash! Play fetch and tug-of-war with your dog frequently around your house, and walk him around your neighborhood. Take rides with him in the car, and bring him along when you have to go somewhere late or alone. You never know when someone is thinking about committing a crime against you, so advertising your dog is the best way to prevent it from ever happening.
The best part is the dog doesn’t even have to be mean. In fact, it’s completely unnecessary. I personally would rather have a big friendly dog. No one knows the difference, and they definitely don’t know your dog as well as you do. The last thing they’ll do is risk it.
Instead, they’ll just move onto the next available target. The one who doesn’t have a dog.