Be Happy, Not Rich. But If You’re Happy, You’re Rich…

What would you do tomorrow, if you won the lottery today? That’s the dream, isn’t it? To win big at the lottery so that you can either retire early, travel the world, enjoys the pleasures of life without the encumbrance of work, bills and debt. I’ve always heard that “Money can’t buy happiness…” While this may true, I’ve usually quipped that I’d prefer to find out for myself. And perhaps someday I’ll get that chance, since I partake of the occasional lottery ticket. But that day is not today.

The way of the modern world is as such that money is a necessary evil in order to exist with any modicum of comfort and sustainability. Unlike previous generations, who lived without the benefits of internet, online shopping and grocery stores, they lived off the land, growing their own crops, making their own clothing and taking life one day at a time without necessarily knowing what was happening in the rest of the world. Sometimes, ignorance can be bliss.

The thing is, life was never meant to be easy. Most things in existence will always seek to take the path of least resistance, so it would make sense that we would choose to suddenly come into a large sum of money and live a life of ease as opposed to working hard and punching a clock. But that isn’t the way of things. And as The Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo money, mo problems…” The more monetary value your household holds, the more likely that you’ll face other issues, such as increasingly higher bills and debts. Money can lead to an endless spiral of needing more and more…

I remember a story from years ago, when I was young and foolish and decided to join a multi-level marketing company (I’m looking to start a war with y’all, so if you’re part of an MLM, no disrespect). We were asked by one of the big wigs giving the presentation what we hoped to get out of life and joining this company. There were about a dozen of us, and he came to us one-by-one for an answer. Most people answered exactly what you’d expect:

  • “I want to retire early…”
  • “I want to be debt-free…”
  • “I want financial independence…”
  • “I want to own a big house…”

All the answers provided indicated some desire to have a life of ease and comfort, to lessen the burden of everyday life and make things easier. I watched in silence until the presenter came to me and I gave him an answer that threw everyone for a loop. I answered, “I want to be happy.” He looked at me for a moment with a mixture of confusion at my answer and frustration that I wasn’t answering on-par with the rest of the sheep, but continued on with his presentation without missing a beat. Leave it to me to provide an answer that would throw him for a loop.

It didn’t take me long to recognize that MLM’s were not for me and that I wouldn’t find happiness there. And like most people, I had to try it to find out. But one of the other attendees came to me after the presentation when we were enjoying some coffee and socializing, and asked me to explain my answer to the presenter’s question. My answer was this:

“I don’t need to have millions of dollars to have a fulfilling life. I just need to be happy. I can do without a mansion, so long as there’s a clean, comfortable roof over my head, food in my fridge and clothes on my back. What I need in order to be happy is simply having the ability to live. What I mean by that is, if I want to grab a medium cup of Tim Horton’s coffee every morning on my way to work, I want to be able to do so without having to calculate if I have enough money in the bank. That’s only one example, but it demonstrates that I don’t need to be rich; I simply need to do better.”

Money CAN’T buy happiness. It can certainly ease financial burden and allow access to resources one may not have, without the added money. But happiness comes from what you get out of life and how you achieve it. Working and being out in the world is about more than the salary you make; it’s about the self-accomplishment you feel and the impact you have on the world. THAT’s the lesson! THAT’s the message we need to pass on to future generations.

I have a friend who often feels he needs the top quality of everything; half-million dollar home, huge camper, newest vehicles and all the fun little “adult” toys one can obtain (And I mean stuff like a hot tub or motorcycle! Get your minds out of the gutter!) I remember when this fried came to visit our home for the first time, when we moved to Regina. We had purchased a reasonably-sized, reasonably-priced bungalow. I remember seeing the look on his face when he walked through; almost looking down his nose at everything and judging the house based on its appearance. It felt as though he couldn’t get out fast enough.

Sure, the house needed (needs) repairs. Sure, it isn’t a grandiose mansion. But you know what? It has the room we need at a price that doesn’t have us living poor to make payments. Meanwhile, the friend in question may have a shiny marble of a house, but he often complains that he has difficulty with his month-to-month. I may be straying a bit off-topic here, but the point is that our home has warmth. Our home has comfort and we can make do with what we have and be happy. And that’s what’s important.

Life isn’t meant to be easy. As a colleague of mine commented last week, “What if it were all easy? What if?” Where would the challenge of life be, if there were no obstacles to overcome. The struggle is ultimately part of the journey, and each journey is unique. So, stop wishing for what you don’t have and start working towards what you want. The results of your efforts will bring you unbridled happiness and once that happiness is rooted in you, you’ll be richer than you can imagine. ☯

“Do Not Pray For An Easy Life, Pray For The Strength To Endure A Difficult One.”

– Bruce Lee

The Chi Effect

There’s no arguing that positive energy is contagious. Ask yourself how many times you’ve felt in a bit of a foul mood, only to be lifted up and singing along with a great, upbeat song on the radio… Positive energy creates positive results; a fact that more people should be able to recognize. By the same token, you can be in an excellent mood, only to be brought down by someone negative who is in a bad mood or spreading sad information. I was chatting about this very thing a short while ago with a colleague of mine from work.

I’ve never been one of those martial arts practitioners who put a great deal of stock into being able to “project” energy or that my Chi or Hara could be used as a weapon. There’s are plenty of idiots on YouTube professing that kind of thing. But there’s no arguing that we are all and everything is energy. Not only do basic physics say so, it’s probably one of the few points of existence that both science and religion agree on. At my core, I’m made of energy. You’re made of energy. The screen you’re reading this post on is energy. The entire world and all things are composed and made of energy.

If you’re still reading and aren’t convinced that I’m nuts, I bring this up because although I don’t believe in projecting energy to knock down opponents (There are seriously people who believe they can do this! Google it!), I can admit to being able to focus my energies into my strikes, my focus and my concentration. This is an entirely different ball game, and I’ve experienced it firsthand while training in karate. Just imagine those times when you’ve been floored by a workout but somehow dug deep and found the strength to carry on for that last little bit. That’s tapping into your energy!

For the purposes of this post, I refer primarily to Chi, because it’s more widely recognized as the vital energy flow that all people have. In karate, we usually refer to the Hara, which is defined as the focused centre of the body where the person’s true nature and vitality reside. But when I say “Hara,” I usually get confused looks. And I can admit that there are some differences, so since we’re discussing energy I’ll simply stick with Chi. Still with me? Good.

Decades ago, when I was younger and more about the skill than the meaning, I began noticing a certain phenomenon around my Sensei. Random people would often approach him and speak to him, sometimes to take photographs or simply ask how his day was going. I never thought much about it beyond considering it odd, considering there was usually a number of us around but he would usually be the only one approached. Then one day, such an encounter finally had me ask the question.

We were in Naha, Okinawa. The year was 2001 and I was 23-years old. I was full of the ol’ proverbial piss & vinegar and I was raring to train. But since the temperatures in Okinawa during the month of October reached somewhere in the low 40 degrees Celsius, Sensei felt our afternoons could best be spent relaxing on the beach. I should have been willing to relax and enjoy the sun and sand, but like I said: I was too focused on the skill than the meaning. So it irked me to no end that we were just sitting there, when we were actually in a Japanese prefecture and there was so much to see.

Anyway, Sensei was walking along the beach with a towel around his shoulders when five or six Okinawans approached him and started talking to him and asked to take photographs with him. I had seen similar things happen with him on numerous occasions, so I asked his wife, who was on the beach with us why this always seemed to be happening. She explained that it seemed as though people had always been drawn to him, without him ever trying or drawing attention to himself. It struck me as an odd thing. Until some years later, when it started happening to me.

Once my youthful shenanigans started dying away and I became more of an instructor and more about the art than the skill, I started to notice that people would often approach me without reason. Sometimes it would just be a general “Hi, how’s your day been?” But sometimes I would have random strangers approach me and talk to me at length without reason, without knowing me and without begging for change or trying to sign me up to their multi-level marketing scheme. It seemed as though I could manage to provide advice, encouragement and perk people up without much effort. Folks would often even come to me for advice, even if I never put myself out as someone who would provide it. I never paid much attention to it; until it went away.

The last three years have been the most difficult years of my life. I’ve been depressed, despondent and at my lowest. I’ve had some good times during those three years, such as the birth of my son Alexander. But it’s been rough waters and it’s taken some time for me to see bright shores ahead. They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I never noticed the effect I described above disappearing, until last weekend when it came back out of nowhere.

I was at the local corner store, checking my lotto ticket. Yeah, yeah, I know… Let’s move on as the lotto ticket isn’t the topic of the post. As I was walking towards my vehicle, a random elderly lady walked towards me and asked me how my day was going. I replied that it was going well. I thought it strange that she was walking towards me, specifically since there were about a dozen vehicles and people milling about. I thought that perhaps she’d ask me for money or something. I hate that I even think this way, but the world has made me this way. She approached and told me she was feeling very happy today as it was Mother’s Day and her children would be bringing her supper.

We chatted for several minutes about her children and how her day was going as well. When I mentioned my own children, she asked me to wish my wife a Happy Mother’s Day as well. I promised that I would. We wished each other a great remainder of our weekend and she carried on her way. When I got into the car, I recognized the phenomenon for what it was and when my wife asked, I explained that it was the “Chi Effect,” and sat in bewilderment for a few moments as I recognized that I had been lacking it for the past few years. It made me happy. It renewed my sense of how my life had changed.

I’m not a guru or a sage. I don’t profess to project my aura, I don’t practice Reiki and I believe my energy is my own and no one else’s. I’m not deeply rooted in metaphysics, although I will confess that I’ve studied it a bit. But what I do believe is that positive energy is contagious, and I believe that when you’re happy and you give off that positive energy, others will pick up on it. And I think that’s what happened with this lady and I, last weekend.

My life and existence have involved the martial arts in every respect. I’ve learned and developed to a level that I realize that the same aspects I’ve seen in Sensei in my younger years are now being reflected in me. The past couple of months have seen some of the shadows lifted from my soul. And the past month in specific has seen me happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. And I think that people can sense that, albeit in a passive way. As my wife once said, many years ago, “happiness heals.” Perhaps some new wounds are starting mend, with some old wounds beginning to make way for new happiness. Food for thought… ☯

There’s Always A Choice…

Ah, life… It has a way of backing us into a corner in such a way as to convince us that we often have no choice but to continue on whatever path is laid out before. Although this can sometimes be true, there’s always a choice to be made; even when it seems that there isn’t. Life may not care about one’s plan and according to Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast. But even if life changes things up quickly, you always have that opportunity to choose.

“Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop And Look Around Once In A While, You Could Miss It.”

– Ferris Bueller

The problem is that when a person is backed into a corner, they’ll often feel powerless or unable to make any choices. It can sometimes look that way, but more often than not we allow ourselves to carry on without consciously making a choice. After all, at a baser level we are still animals. And most animals will take the path of least resistance. From an animal standpoint, this is because it conserves the most energy and contributes to an animal’s overall survival.

Humans, despite being a part of the animal kingdom, have to deal with the stress, anxiety and subsequent issues that accompany the reflex of just sitting back and doing nothing. For example, if you face an accusation from someone and may face repercussions, the toll it can take on your mental health is measurable, despite the fact that it could potentially be easier to take the path of least resistance and wait to see how things play out.

This is only one example, but my point is that the right to choose is something that is essentially unique to humans. Even when animals make a choice, they’re doing so out of instinct and need as opposed to self-awareness and informed decisions. Exercising that unique choice is a right not permitted to everyone in the world, so I feel that it’s important to exercise it in every instance.

So, you may not be able to choose how someone else speaks, acts or directs their emotions. But you can certainly choose your reaction to those things. You may not be able to choose if a particular job or business still exists, tomorrow. But you can definitely choose what you do about it. Life may have thrown you a bad curve. Maybe you’ve gained weight, fell out of shape or an illness has caused your health to wane. You may not have chosen any of those things, but you can definitely choose what changes you make and how you affect your overall.

No matter what situations life may present, there’s always a choice to make. And considering not everyone in the world is given the opportunity to choose, you owe it to yourself to exercise that choice. The choice to choose. For example, you chose to read this post… ☯

The Many Shades Of Green

The grass is always greener on the other side. Is it, though? Humans are notorious for wanting what they can’t have, but they tend to be just as bad or worse for wanting what they DON’T have. It’s a pretty common reflex. If you want to purchase a particular vehicle that you’ve seen one of your neighbours driving, you may work towards getting it. But usually, soon thereafter you’ll see something ELSE and think, “Oh, wow! Wish I had that instead…”

Most of us have thought or felt this way, at some point in our lives. I believe the old school term is “coveting.” Although most people automatically think of the Holy Bible when they hear this term, it can easily apply to life in general. The problem is that modern life makes it likely that there will always be a “step up” from where you find yourself at or what you may possess. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I’m a bit of a minimalist and could care less about possessions. But even I find myself in that same boat, on occasion.

It’s easy to covet what we don’t have. But once you accept what you DO have and appreciate it, life becomes so much easier and peaceful. I think it was Oprah Winfrey who said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” At least I think it was Oprah. It’s similar to saying that if you wait to spot the field with the greener grass, you’ll miss the whole train ride. ☯

“Appreciate What You Have, Before Time Makes You Appreciate What You Had.”

– Vijay Raj

Proper Life/Work Balance

There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of, Work to live, don’t live to work… Don’t quote me, and I don’t know where this originates from but it brings up an interesting line of thought. many people actually ENJOY living to work. Sensei used to say that if he genuinely enjoys what he’s doing, then it isn’t work. And if he gets paid for doing what he enjoys, then it’s icing on the cake. And that can be a beautiful thing. But it’s important to recognize that one needs to find a proper balance.

Most people refer to it as “work/life balance,” because it rolls off the tongue a little better. But I revered it to “life/work balance” in the title, because life should always come first. Even if it doesn’t care about your plans. And once again, I digress… Modern life no longer lets you get away with living life COMPLETELY off the grid and without a source of income and social resources. So for the most part, we need to make our peace with the fact that one way or another, you gotta get a job! (I hear my dad’s voice, booming in my head!)

There are no doubt some contrarians out there, who would argue that they know someone who spent their lives living in a cabin in the woods, off the grid and never had a need for money. I have to admit that such a life holds some appeal, but I would never survive since I require technology such as my insulin pump and medicine to go along with it. Eventually, these off-the-grid folks will need money in some way, shape or form in order to get treatment for grievous injuries or illnesses. But that’s hardly the point of today’s post.

The point is, you need to strike the correct balance between your work life and your home life. Depending on what you do for work, this can be superbly easy. You clock in, do your work and clock out. You may not need to think about work while you’re at home. But if you allow exhaustion and lack of motivation FROM work keep you from enjoying the aspects of life, then you still haven’t struck the right balance. You need to be able to enjoy your down time. AND you need to know how to “shut off” the work part of your brain. If you’re doing a puzzle with your wife but thinking of that proposal you need to finish writing, then you’re on the wrong track.

I can admit to being guilty of this, as my previous career showed me. Even when I was home, I was always “on duty,” unable to turn my mind off, sleep properly or enjoy my down time to its fullest extent. It can be harmful, and your loved ones can easily come to resent this behaviour, if left unchecked. So I guess the question is, what can you do to ensure that you find this proper balance? And how can you ensure that you maintain it? Lucky for you, I’m going to share some thoughts on that!

Have a routine. This is the spice of modern life, but most people don’t necessarily understand JUST how important it is. Having a specific routine, first thing in the morning can get your mind accustomed to the fact that you need to get moving. Whether you choose to start by sipping that first coffee and reading the paper or you prefer to shower, shave (for us guys), get dressed and wolf down that day-starting batch of carbs, staying consistent on work days will help you to have some very much-needed “get up and go.” When your work day is done, it’s also important to have a routine, for the opposite reason. It gets you and your body wound down for the night’s sleep ahead.

Do some stuff. This should be common sense, but if you flop down on the couch and do nothing once you get home, you’ll sour your energy, become stagnant and you’ll leave your thoughts open to contemplating the day’s work and potentially the following day. You want to be able to enjoy your free time. Play with your kids. Have a workout or go for a walk. Have a glass of wine and watch a movie. I often hear the siren call of naps and early sleep. But if you get a full night’s sleep anyway, you should work towards maintaining your energy for the awake hours.

Don’t work outside of scheduled hours. Sometimes, our plates can get pretty full and it can get away from us. For those of you committed to the work you do, it can be pretty tempting to bring your work home with you and try to catch up. This is significantly easier with current pandemic restrictions causing many office-based positions to be performed from home anyway. And working at home can feel more comfortable, since you’re among your home and your family. Things may feel less pressured at home, but it isn’t the office and you should save your home time for those things that are not related to work.

The bottom line is that unless you win millions of dollars through the lottery or inherit a fortune, the need to work isn’t going anywhere. And in truth, a job can be a fantastic means of expressing oneself and making a mark on the world. I often like to say that I’d continue working even if I won the lottery because I’d go out of my mind without something to focus my thoughts and skills on. Not to mention that I would potentially drive my wife nuts by being home around the clock. But the reality is that balance is when you clock out and head home at the end of the day, leaving the “work” behind to be picked up again tomorrow. And steer towards the “life.” There’ll always be work to do. But life doesn’t last forever. ☯

You Can’t Help If You Don’t Know

We often like to believe that the world as we know it is at its most chaotic and that things have never been this weird or strange. But in truth, things have pretty much always stayed consistent. In their own way. We generally feel like there’s been a measurable change in society because recent decades have opened a spigot on accepting everyone and everything, combined with a complete and total inability to process and accept criticism, judgement and opinions. It’s a toxic combination as it’s breeding a world where people can claim to be whatever they want (even if they aren’t that particular thing) and shame on you if you tell them different. Have you experienced this? I recently did and what’s worse is, it was with someone I’m actually acquainted with. I can’t imagine the further shit storm I would have faced, had I been a stranger.

One of the things that’s always lit a fire under me is how folks simply EXPECT you to know something about them. And of course, every situation is specific and circumstantial to the moment, but sometimes one needs to acknowledge that there has to be a bit of give to your take. A good example I can provide is from almost twenty years’ ago when I managed a restaurant. We had a gentleman who came in, almost on a daily basis. He was a bit older than I was and was usually accompanied by what appeared to be family. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than the fact that he was in a wheelchair. This was not a temporary thing and he had obviously had something happen to him, earlier in life.

Through coincidence and circumstance, I had never had the opportunity to serve him. Then one day, I did. I took his order, accepted his payment and held out his change, which he accepted. Then I made the apparently offensive mistake of offering to carry his tray to the table… Now, I totally get that everyone is on their own journey and we never know what they’re going through and so on and so forth. And that’s quite true. You never know what’s bubbling underneath the surface. But the way this gentleman reacted to me was disproportionate to the fact that I was simply making an offer to help. He took instant offence and became irritated, asking me how I dared to assume he was incapable of carrying his own tray.

Being as I had worked at that particular job for quite some time and had plenty of practice at staying calm in the face of customer anger, I simply took a step back, held my hands out placatingly and apologized, as the man grabbed his tray, laid it across the arms of his wheelchair and pushed off. He executed each movement with the kind of over-exaggerated jerkiness that made it clear he was upset. He also never broke eye contact, glaring at me the whole time. Holy shit. What just happened? I asked the two other floor managers I was working with if they knew the story, but neither of them did.

Since I’m a firm believer in allowing matters to cool before addressing them, I left the man alone but I chose to address one of the family members he had with him. I explained what had happened and I asked her if she knew why he had taken such offence. She explained that it was mostly a pride thing, as he always tried to be as independent as possible despite being in a wheelchair. I wanted to tell her that I understood but that he may want to reconsider his approach, since the person he’s addressing may not know that. instead, I just said that I understood and asked her to apologize on my behalf as he seemed to be pretty pissed at me. She nodded understandingly and said that she would.

This begs the question? Was I the asshole? And no, I don’t mean in general, before any of my friends or family jump on THAT particular bandwagon. But was it fair of this person to use their anger on me like that for something I didn’t know about? One would think that it would make sense to offer aid to someone who is in a wheelchair and although it could be understood that such a person would want to retain independence and do things for themselves, would it not be the better approach to simply explain that, rather than get angry?

The rights and acknowledgment of a large number of different groups has become a hot topic around the world. One good example is gender identity, which has become something of the norm in recent years. We always see stories on the news about people who have gotten into physical altercations and public arguments because someone might have said “sir” or “ma’am.” Every person has the right to their identity as they see fit, but is it fair to unleash the hounds on every person who may not know? You can see and read about these situations almost every day as they relate to politics, gender identity, handicap and the less visible diseases and sexual orientation.

And although I know that this can be a bit of a touchy subject, it begs an important question as to whether it’s more important to receive the correct acknowledgement or be treated in a specific way as opposed to making it clear in the first place. I think that if I address someone by a particular title, I would like to be informed if I’m incorrect. This would be much easier than starting an angered tirade that can easily snowball into something uglier. I’d rather not have that person emotionally explode in my face because they identify as something other than the term I used.

I’m not referring to times when dealing with specific folks who feels it necessary to work AGAINST any particular group. That’s an entirely different bag. I’m referring to the normal, everyday interactions that we have while out in public (not that THAT happens much these days). Harmony and peace would be so much easier if people would simply take a moment and say, “Please address me this way…” or “No, thank you. I can manage this on my own.” As a Diabetic, I’ve often had people try to be accommodating or helpful. Especially when they’re “helpfully” suggesting what I should or shouldn’t eat… But that’s for another post. My point is, I view such instances as a chance for education and clarification. If every person did as much, it could go a long way towards preventing so many negative encounters. Food for thought… ☯

You Can’t Please Everybody

Everybody wants to be liked. Of course, they do. Even the people who puff out their chest and claim they don’t care what other people think would prefer to be liked than disliked. This is a natural compulsion and it makes sense. After all, life is always easier when dealing with people who like you than the opposite. But the big problem is that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, there’ll always be someone in the equation displeased with what you say, do or think. Trust, I know. I used to be one of the people who tried to please everyone…

Although the average person tends NOT to think so, complaining about the negative always seems to be easier than simply appreciating the positive. If people could simply be happy with what/who they have, the world would likely be a more peaceful place. And if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of keen on the whole peace thing. I used to try and accomplish this by doing exactly what was described above: trying to please everybody.

I can remember some specific circumstances of when I’ve done this. I remember the one time where I attended a party with a handful of people. (I know, right? We actually used to do things like gathering in groups and the police WOULDN’T show up) Anyway, I lost a bet and it fell on me to buy the “adult beverages” for the evening. Beer. I had to buy the beer. There were only a handful of us and we had a bit of an organized game night happening… D&D. We were going to be playing D&D.

So, I accepted my loss and graciously purchased a case of beer, which would provide each of us with a couple of drinks. This was more than adequate for our early 20’s metabolisms and we needed to keep our heads clear for the game, anyway. Out of the friends who were there, there was ONE guy who decided he was unhappy with the brand of beer I purchased. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the guy should have been reasonable and appreciated the drinks he was getting for free, regardless of the brand. That should have the way of it.

Instead, this guy indicated that he doesn’t drink the brand of beer I brought and wouldn’t be drinking it. Some of the others indicated their disapproval of this opinion, especially since it was brought for him and it was free (albeit through the loss of a bet). But as the game started, the guy actually pouted a bit and would glare at me regularly. I should probably point out that I was the storyteller, what’s referred to as a Dungeon Master in D&D circles. But I’ll stop firmly establishing my throne in nerdom and point out that it was ridiculously childish and distracting while I was trying to focus.

So, what did I do? Did I tell him to suck it up? Did I tell him to stop being petty and have a couple of drinks, since they were provided for him at no cost? Did I have enough of his petulance and kick him out of the game. No. No, I didn’t. I put the game on hold, asked him what brand of beer was his favourite and actually went to the corner to grab him a 6-pack of his own. I brought it back, he smiled and grabbed a bottle and we got on with our game. I’d like to say that it was because I just wanted to shut him up, but back then I genuinely just wanted to please most people.

Should I have done this? In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. All I accomplished was showing this guy that complaining and pouting about something would eventually get him his way. If I’d been smart, I would have put my foot down so that the rest of us could enjoy our game. The debt incurred by the bet had been repaid and there were bigger fish to fry. All I really accomplished that night was putting myself out further than I should have. Sure, all the guys got what they wanted that night so I guess that in a way I “pleased” everyone, but at what cost.

I recently read somewhere that “You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough. Live your life.” An that’s quite true. It’s always a beautiful thing when you can get along with everyone, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll ever be able to please everyone. If you make a meal, there’ll always be an aspect of the meal that someone at the table won’t like. The important thing to remember is the effort you’ve put into the things you do. If there are some who don’t like it or aren’t please with you, so be it. You can’t base your life on whether or not you’ve pleased everyone. ☯

Unlike Footprints In The Sand, A First Impression Rarely Washes Away

It’s a pretty classic story; you attend a local business or service and received really, really bad service from the salesperson. This may be one that you’ve never met before, but they seem standoffish and not really interested in selling to you or helping you. You leave the location thinking about how bad your experience may have been. Then, while chatting over coffee with a friend you discuss your experience only to have your friend indicate he’s dealt with that sales person before and they were wonderful and the service was great. Was it just you? Either way, the first impression that salesperson gave you marked him AND that location in your mind as a place to avoid.

Impressions mean a lot from the perspective of the person looking out at the world. I use the example of a salesperson because it’s a simple and easily understood example. But I’m sure you can think of others. For example, let me tell you about two different people you might see out in public. The first is a young male, well dressed, shirt and tie with dress shoes. He’s clean-shaven and looks to have an ever-so-slight smirk on his face. He appears happy and seems to be on top of his game. At first glance, most would think he may be a local manager or business person. The second person is wearing torn, dirty sweatpants, has at least a few days growth on his face, hair askew and is wearing a canvass coat over everything that quite frankly, smells a bit off as you walk by. At first glance, one might be inclined to believe this person to be homeless or derelict, looking to pander for change or a free meal.

What do you think? Do you agree with those descriptions? From a personal standpoint, first impressions make a difference because they set the bar for how people interact with you. If you’re meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time and you keep a straight face and seem standoffish, that impression may lead them to think your not personable or good as a partner for their child. But if you take the time to smile, shake hands and/or hug (depending on the family, of course), you’ll make a much better first impression. The point is, impressions can last and although every person’s perspective and view of the world may be different, it’s usually pretty difficult to change that impression once it’s been made. It’s a reflex that humans have that’s somewhat connected to our survival instincts.

Now, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between making a good impression and worrying about what others think of you. Those are two entirely different things. If you were to tell me that I shouldn’t care what others think of me, I would agree that you are correct. But unless the meeting of someone has an underlying negative connotation anyway, making a good impression is important. Almost as important as never judging a proverbial book by its cover, which brings us back to our two subjects from the second paragraph. I’m sure you’d like to know who and what those two characters actually are…

The first man, the one in the suit; he’s actually a homeless guy who’s been crashing on friend’s couch. He’s barely eaten in the past week after losing his previous job due to illness and he’s on his way to an interview that he hopes will provide him with a new career. His smile denotes his optimism and hope for the future. He sees good things ahead, and plans on benefiting from them. He borrowed the suit from one of his uncles so that he could make a good first impression.

The second man, the one with the hair all over the place and smelly clothes that looks like he may be a homeless person? He’s actually a successful investigator with a large, family home just outside the city. He’s built his businesses to the point that he can be home or absent from work whenever he chooses and never has to worry about money for the rest of his life. Why is he dressed this way, with a strained look in his face? Because he helped one of his neighbours clear out his back lot after some light flooding dragged forest scraps and waste into his yard, hence the filth and the smell. He worked in similar industries in previous years and knew he’d be able to help.

If you had known this information about those two at the very beginning, how would it have changed your impression of them? It would be lying to say that it WOULDN’T have, right? But as I said, first impressions can be important and although I mostly refer to the impression you yourself make on an approaching party when meeting them the first time, impressions are the message that others send to us when meeting for the first time. So always put your best foot forward. No matter what side of the counter you find yourself on, no what kind of attitude or personality the other person has or what certain biases may surface in your brain. You’ll be all the better for it AND you’ll go a certain way towards making a better world. ☯

It’s Not Your Job To Belittle A Job…

It can sometimes be easy to forget that all jobs in modern society are necessary, especially when some of those jobs are ones that we would generally prefer not to do. For example, I think we could agree that the average kid usually doesn’t say they want to be a garbage collector when they grow up. But without people to DO that job, imagine the mess and inconvenience we’d be in? It’s lucky for us that there are folks who are not only willing but able and happy to do these jobs so that we don’t have to find out. But it would be nice to see some appreciation, as well.

Through my late teens and most of my twenties, I paid off student loans and made my money by working at a local fast-food restaurant. For obvious legal reasons, I’d rather not name the restaurant but it usually has arches up front, if that gives you any indication. I lost count of the number of people who commented negatively about my working there and belittled the job as a whole. Although i can admit that it was by no means a “glamorous” job, it taught independence, skills, the value of hard work and introduced me to the world of management that has eventually led me to the hear and now.

Some years later, I held a job as a janitor. I swept and mopped floors, emptied trash receptacles and washed windows. Most people in the building wearing suits and carrying briefcases would walk past me without ever noticing me, despite my occasional smile or wave. I was “beneath” them. But this job taught me attention to detail, perseverance and the importance of cleanliness. And it would have been interesting to see the results of my team and I not cleaning their building for an extended period of time.

I guess one could easily say that I’ve done a bit of everything, and I’ve always believed that each and every different job I’ve held has taught me something, provided me with something and has helped make me a better person. This is why it seriously bothers me when I hear someone say something along the lines of, “If you don’t study hard and get a degree, you’ll end up like THAT…” As though any given job they name doesn’t have value and worth. Some of that is based on modern society’s belief in accomplishing BIG things. But what’s big? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of perspective.

“Flipping Burgers Is Not Beneath Your Dignity. Your Grandparents Had a Different Word For Burger Flipping – They Called It Opportunity.”

– Bill Gates

No matter what you do in life, so long as you give it your all and do the best you can at what you’re doing you’ll always find its value. Nothing is beneath you, and no one should ever belittle you for what you do. And should you happen to be the one doing the belittling, shame on you. If you’ve never been below your current station in life, at least understand that every job is essential and pertinent to your existence; even a job you’d prefer not to be doing yourself. And lastly, money isn’t everything. There are plenty of sources that have proven that if you do what you love, the money will come. Unless what you love is sitting on your couch eating nachos. Then, I can’t help you. ☯

Clash Of The Styles…

If there’s one thing that everyone knows, regardless of whether they’ve studied martial arts or not, is that there’s a HUGE family tree spanning several thousand years when it comes to the martial arts. Different styles, different schools and different families can sometimes make it difficult to know and understand if one style is better than the other or which one you should pursue, if you’re looking to do so. The reality is that there isn’t so much one style that’s better than the other; it’s about how it’s taught and how it works for you. I’ve written about this on a few occasions.

It can be difficult two schools of opposing view come face-to-face, especially if they happen to be training in the same complex or their respective dojos are on the same city block or something. It’s reminiscent of those old, corny kung fu movies where you’d always get one clan or style that would be feuding with another. “Our kung fu is stronger than yours!” I used to love those movies. No stunt doubles or CGI, just clean, semi-realistic fighting fun. It was a guilty pleasure of mine as a kid. But I digress…

If we were to use generalized terms to describe TYPES of martial arts, we can easily classify them under four categories: Traditional, Modern, Weapons-based and Hybrid. I’m sure that some fellow martial artists would divide these categories differently, so I should likely point out that this is a personal perspective and not necessarily something official and/or recognized. But when I hear of any given style, I usually find myself able to place them in any one of these four categories. Still with me? Good. Moving on…

Traditional martial arts describes “pure” styles that were developed at the start of of a specific martial art’s existence and usually involves a lot of protocol, ceremony and tradition. Further, they rely on training methods that many mainstream fighters consider ineffective, such as forms. It can cover a variety of methods including striking, grappling, pressure points and joint manipulation. In my experience, I’ve found that teachers of a traditional art tend to be the most difficult and inflexible, claiming their style to be the best one and everyone else’s is junk. They’ll usually discourage their students from exploring other styles and learning or adapting techniques from elsewhere as it would “cloud” their own techniques.

Modern styles are ones that are pretty recent in their development and often include the combining and amalgamation of one and/or several traditional styles. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with modern styles, they often boast a slew of benefits when compared to traditional styles, even when this is not always the case. It also won’t necessarily be a combination of a pre-existing style but can be something created by someone else, using previous martial arts training as a starting point. Jeet Kune Do is a very good example, with his foundational use of Wing Chun Kung Fu as the starting point, although JKD is seen by many as more of a philosophy than and specific style. But an applied philosophy, if nothing else.

Hybrids are a different type of creature. These are the ones that usually a mixture of something that’s pre-existing. What differentiates them from the modern category? Mostly the fact that a given school will provide certifications for any of those combined styles. Although Kyojushinkai (a modern style) is a style of karate developed by combining various other deeper-rooted karate styles, one would only train to achieve belts IN Kyokushinkai. But hybrids will allow you to achieve belts in various styles. For example, if you work out in a dojo that trains in karate and judo and the instructors can/will issue belts in either of those disciplines. Although some options can be nice and it can be useful to add some variety and incorporate techniques from other styles, trying to achieve belts in two styles simultaneously can be confusing and difficult. And many new age styles of “academies” actually follow this practice.

Weapons-based is pretty straight forward. We’re talking your Kobudo, Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo, Escrima… Anything style of martial art that primarily teaches the use of some sort of hand-held weapons. Are any of these four inherently better than the other three? Not necessarily. I would say it depends on what you genuinely hope to get out of your martial arts experience. Each one has their benefits and disadvantages. Traditional styles can be very rewarding. I study and train in a traditional style, myself. But it can also be pretty restrictive if you’re training under someone who doesn’t allow the flexibility of exploring techniques outside of the existing curriculum. Modern styles can be more accommodating but may lack some of the traditions and history of a traditional style.

Hybrid styles or schools, I would say, carry the most disadvantage. This is a personal opinion of course, but hybrid schools can “muddy the waters” for a beginner trying to properly train in the martial arts. Although variety is the spice of life, it can be very difficult to properly master one style when studying many in tandem. If you happen to join a martial arts academy that carries this hybrid philosophy, my recommendation would be to choose ONE discipline and stay with it (unless you hate it or it doesn’t work for you) with some cursory or occasional visitation to the other styles in order to gain some variety.

Take all these descriptions with grain of salt. As I’ve often written before, the choice of style and training method has to work for you. It can be frustrating, but it can take trying and training with a few different schools before you find one that suits your purpose and goals. And be wary of instructors who bad-mouth or speak negatively of other schools or dojos. Respect and positivity should be ever-present values in ANY dojo. If those don’t exist in a given school, you likely won’t have a good experience, regardless of what your training goals may be. Train hard, my friends. ☯