Posts Tagged ‘American’

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Talking somebody down from the wall of worry is not an easy task. To do so you must deftly skirt accusations like “you just don’t understand” and “you’re not hearing me” while reassuring, distracting and refocusing attention on what can be done here and now.

Troubles are fed by the attention you pay to them. Wise is the person who understands the scope of his problems without succumbing to the temptation to fixate on them. Problems are resolved with solutions, not worries.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the silliest things you can worry about are those things which you have no control over or any means of influencing. They are what they are and stressing about them will only drain the very battery you will draw upon to handle the challenges that pass through your sphere of influence.

If you have a list of worries, take the time to cross out those about which you can do nothing. Next to those crossed out write something you can handle or influence as things are now. You can either spend time worrying or moving in a productive direction. The choice is yours.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~ Pat Schroeder


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Image by Gregg Hake


My youngest son, who is now four years old, learned to pronounce the letter “l” properly this weekend. I daresay that I will miss the “w” that typically stood in the place of a properly pronounced hard “l”, but hey, “wife” goes on. He spent the entire weekend searching for words that began with or contained the newly mastered letter and it was such a thrill to behold that his brother, mother and I proposed a toast in his honor (he wuvved it).

One of my greatest delights in life is when I have the privilege to witness the personal victory of another. No matter how big or small, life’s accomplishments are worthy of notice and celebration. It is on this basis and only on this basis that education becomes and remains something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded or shunned.

The process of education is taking on a whole new meaning to me as my sons begin to interface with the education system in the United States, a system that has its roots in and retains much of its shape from the transition between America’s distant past as an agrarian society and its more recent past as an industrial nation.

Loud clanging bells still mark the hour, preparing students for beginning and end of shift bells in shops, factories and manufacturing centers around the country that are increasingly hard to find. The industrial-era influence continues to shape the architecture of most schools with an austere aesthetic. Sure, computers are plugged into the “wired” schools of our advanced era, but in my view it is generally lipstick on an outmoded jig.

What is needed is a new template, one that takes the realities of our current era into account. For starters, our students need to move around more and eat better. No matter how many facts we fill their minds with, a child who leaves the educational system with a diploma and a diagnosis of obesity is at a disadvantage. Many schools, particularly on the West Coast, are revamping their cafeterias and meal programs with the help of passionate innovators like Jamie Oliver. It’s a good start, but we need more!

With regard to my two previous posts on the future of our country and of the freedom we have enjoyed over the last two centuries, we are in desperate need of programs and tools that help educate the future electorate that walk the halls of our educational institutions. What good is a specialization in this, that or the other if you do not understand what role you have in maintaining the delicate balance between anarchy and tyranny made possible by a Constitutional republic?

In my previous post Civic Virtue and the Rise and Fall of Empires I quoted Benjamin Franklin on the necessity of forming and training our youth in wisdom and virtue. There is no greater challenge faced by educators today. Unless we get this right no effort expended or dollar spent to put the American educational system back in the game will have any meaning.

Education is a tremendously inspiring and engaging process when delivered correctly. The future of the world rests in the hands of an educated and virtuous electorate and we must do all within our power to create a system that meets today’s needs and answers today’s challenges.

As an aside, if we fail on this point we had all better start practice saying: “Wong Wive the King!” No pressure!

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Have you ever noticed how often people will give their house, car, room or yard an extreme makeover just before moving or putting them up for sale? Rather than care for what they have all the way along they prefer to let entropy have its way, and their material possessions slowly and unnecessarily decay.

Some people take a twisted pride in this type of arrangement and their house, truck and dog all end up looking like they were kicked off the island of misfit toys. “I’m an American! You can’t tell me what to do” they say with a curious mix of indignation and hubris. Care or lack of care for one’s material possessions doesn’t necessarily relate to socio-economic status. It is a universal problem.

Randy Pausch, in his final lecture, made the important statement that things are just things. He implied that we should never let material goods destroy a relationship with another human being. While that is excellent advice, there are nevertheless many good reasons to do your utmost to care for those things which are temporarily or permanently in your possession.

There are two kinds of cooks. The first cleans as they go and the second waits until everything piles up to the point where the cook must clean to cook. Either way works fine in the short span of preparing a meal (especially a Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meal!), but when the latter approach is employed in life as a rule, things begin to unravel. They come apart slowly at first, but they eventually fall apart faster than they can be reassembled.

The principle of preventive maintenance is valuable in every sphere of life. By taking the time to care for the things within your sphere of influence (whether you own them or not), you add value to the world round you. In one of my early posts entitled “Boston Legal and my Trashy Habit” we looked at a guiding principle that my father imparted to me in my youth. He encouraged me to always return things in better condition than I found them. Follow this one rule and your life will bless many.

It’s best not to wait until just before you have to return, sell or hand over something to take care of it. There is a right season for everything and there is a point beyond which you cannot go and expect to keep that which is under your care in good working order. In other words, there is a “too late.”

If you don’t know what the right cadence is, it is best to be overzealous for starters. In time you will find the balance point and your things, and those who are entrusted with them after you, will benefit from your care.

Have a great week and take the time necessary to care for those things in your world that you have accidentally or purposefully neglected. You’ll feel better about yourself as the shame, guilt and general weight of your remissness evaporate as quickly as your window cleaner.

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“Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life.” ~ William Shakespeare

I daresay this morning that virtually every unpleasant element aspect of the human condition came into being through the words and actions of men and women who held their lives more dear than their honor.

Is your honor in tact? Do you live life nobly? One way to check how you are doing in this department is to ask yourself at the end of the day – the end of every day – “Did I do my best today to assist others to their fulfillment?”

Take time today to help another. How? Be creative. Pay attention. Pay it forward. Pay homage to someone you’ve respected in secret.

Pay Attention

Look into the eyes of those with whom you converse. Stay focused. Multi-tasking is overrated, especially when one of the tasks is a conversation. Let others complete their sentences. Don’t interrupt. Hear them out.

Pay it Forward

Benjamin Franklin articulated this valuable concept in a letter he wrote to Benajmin Webb on April 22, 1784:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also described how to pay it forward in his 1841 essay Compensation: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

Pay Homage

You have no doubt been witness to a “PDA” (Public Display of Affection), but when was the last time you were witness or even party to a “PDR” (Public Display of Respect)? Take time to publicly recognize those whom you hold in high esteem. Others may snicker or sneer, but the world is in desperate need of honor and genuine homage.

When honor becomes your central concern, one of the last things on your mind is how you feel about your life at any given point in time. In fact, honor and integrity banishes self-centeredness.

Have a wonderful Sunday and be not the Knave that stops the progress of a good deed.

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