No Use Getting Violent Over Spilled Coffee…

That title was supposed to say “spilled milk,” but I’m much more partial to coffee than milk, so there you have it. Trust is an important commodity. It’s something you definitely need to have in others, both in your professional and your private life. Without it, you’d never be able to work side-by-side with anyone or let anyone into your life. Just think: when was the last time you met someone new and just immediately trusted them?

Some people can definitely engender a sense of trust in you the first time you meet them but for the most part, trust has to be earned over time and through the words and actions of the other person. It’s almost always a difficult process, especially when it involves trusting the other person to do something in your stead. A good example would be watching my five-year old pull a carton of chocolate milk out of the fridge.

Nathan rarely gets chocolate milk. Yeah, I know… I’m a cruel daddy. But we have chocolate syrup that I use for him on occasion so a carton of actual chocolate milk is a rare treat that he gets when he’s been behaving well (so he rarely gets any). Recently he got a small glass from a 500mL carton, which left the remainder in the fridge for later consumption. During the following morning’s breakfast, he asked if he could have some, to which I replied that he could.

Then my genius son, in all his glory, chose to pull the carton out of the fridge by gripping the very top lip of carton, using nothing but his index and thumb. I could see his tiny wrist trembling from the weight and the visible struggle on his face, and my every instinct was to grab the carton from him and bring it to the counter myself before it inevitably fell and splash all over the kitchen floor. I was surprised when I took a breath (and held it) and allowed him to complete the task, thereby preserving his dignity and allowing me to trust him.

But it was forced and difficult, and I usually find that this is a difficult thing regardless of who or what I’m dealing with. For a lot of people, myself included, it’s a control thing. Most people dislike and/or are uncomfortable with the prospect of letting someone else do a particular thing when they know they can do it faster/better/more efficiently… For others, they’ve simply been doing things themselves for so long that it feels distinctly odd to have someone else do it for them.

Allowing yourself to trust can relieve a great deal of pressure in your own life. Nobody should be expected to carry the burden of life on their own, and we can all agree that any load is much easier to bear when it’s weight is shared. This is something that I feel I need to work on, for my own self-development. Had Nathan dropped that chocolate milk, sure it would have made a mess but it would have been a teachable moment (especially since I’d have made the booger clean it up himself). But it allowed me to let go a bit and trust that he could do it. And he did. What would happen if he’d ever spill my coffee is a conversation for another day… ☯

The Benefits And Perils of Water

“Be Like Water, My Friend…”

– Bruce Lee

Water is essential to life. There’s no question. But water has the potential to create or destroy. Of this, there is also no question. Bruce Lee is famously known for including the concept to “be like water” in his teachings. And for good reason. The concept behind this is an important one in the martial arts. Fluidity of movement and adapting any given scenario without necessarily being stuck to any one system or style is what I always felt Lee was getting at when he referred to this.

I think my favourite version of this, was said by Jason Scott Lee when he starred as Bruce Lee (believe it or not, there’s no relation) in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993. Lee explains how in order to study the martial arts a practitioner has to “be like the nature of water.” He explains that water will take any form, fill any container. Water is the softest stuff on Earth, but it can penetrate rock… Yeah… About that last one…

Enter: last Thursday night. I was sitting in my small basement office, researching and typing away and searching for jobs. Sometime late in the evening, beyond the 10pm hour, a thunder storm rolled in and thunder was audible in the basement. For whatever reason, Nathan becomes skittish and frightened when there’s thunder so I went upstairs to find him standing on his bed looking out the window. I could tell he was apprehensive, so I offered to build him a blanket fort in the downstairs office so he could go to sleep and have me nearby. He eagerly agreed.

Torrential rain fell for well over an hour and just past the 11pm hour, my wife came down to check on us and confirm that I had closed up our garage (which I had). As we stepped out of the office together and walked towards the stairs, we could see a difference in colour on our basement floor and turned on some lights. We found that the floor at our west wall was soaked with water. Our baseboards had warped and at least a half dozen cardboard boxes we had in storage had soaked up a heavy amount of rain water.

Our foundation was very obviously leaking, and we worked quickly to try and move as many things out of the line of water as we could. Just to be clear, it wasn’t pouring water in like a sieve, but water was seeping in enough to have a visible wetness on the tile floor in the storage room and to soak about two feet of carpet from the wall, all along the western edge of our house. We emptied out our boxes and found that several books had been damaged/ruined in the incident and that many other items were in need of drying off.

It was late at night, and I had consumed a couple of glasses of red wine at this point and was ready for bed. Nothing snaps you out of it quite like a threatening incident against your home. I was at a loss. There was no way to stop the rain and certainly no way to repair the foundation in such a way that it would stop the further propagation of water during the night. We did the best we could in moving everything away from the damaged wall and called it a night.

I’ve often written that foundation is everything. Your foundation is basis for everything that it holds up and that if your foundation is weak, your structure can be the strongest in the world but will still falter, in time. In writing about that concept, I’ve usually been referring to the martial arts. But the joke is that I was now exposed to a real-life example of how this is true. The foundation of my home is now weakened and compromised and it threatens the safety of my home as a whole.

I contacted our insurance company the following day to report the incident. I was provided good, friendly service by the lady I was speaking to and was scheduled to have an adjuster/investigator come assess the damages to see if our insurance would cover costs of repairs. I asked several questions, one of which was whether or not the foundation would be repaired in order to prevent such a thing from happening again. The response was that all of the foundations in our city were subject to cracking and shifting because of the nature of our soil, and that insurance wouldn’t cover anything related to our foundation due to it being a “naturally occurring event that happens over time.”

I was understandably upset and asked her what, exactly, that she expected would be repaired for us if not the actual source of the problem. She explained that they would replace our baseboard and walls, as well as pull up the carpet, clean and replace the flooring as necessary. So basically, they’d be looking at replacing our 1969 orange carpet and wooden clapboard, which we were planning on renovating anyway. But they fully intended on leaving the foundation damaged.

It’s a prime example of how the almighty dollar rules modern society. When we purchased our home, we were forced to obtain home owner’s insurance in order to be approved for a mortgage. I don’t know if this is the same everywhere, but it was certainly the case through my bank. But despite being forced to get it and paying thousands a year in premiums, they don’t seem keen on covering the aspects of one’s home that can actually become an issue. Not to mention the $1,000 deductible that I would have to pay.

The lady also advised me that moving forward with a claim would eliminate my “claims-free” status and that my yearly premium would be increased by 15% for the next three years. I was polite enough not to swear at her over the phone, but I have to admit that I’ve never wanted to get rid of a home so badly in my life. I think we may be shopping around for a closer and better insurance company in the near future. In the meantime, my wife and I need to start the arduous task of taking our basement apart and starting repairs on our own. And we’ll likely have to repair our foundation at our own cost. Ah, home ownership…

Like I said, this is a real life example of how water can be just as destructive to us as it is necessary. Even if one were to assume that a concrete wall should be able to hold water at bay, my home is proof that water will eventually erode any surface and find its way through. This should be a good lesson for the importance of tenacity and commitment. But at the moment, it’s really just something that’s testing the upper limits of my calm. ☯

If Owning Problems Was Cash, I’d Be Bill Gates…

The world is a complicated place. There is no easy solution, when dealing with the day-to-day requirements of adult life and I’ll totally admit that there are days where I’d rather crawl into my blanket fort and colour than deal with those requirements. What’s more is that there will always be “battles” to be fought because, well… You’re an individual and your thoughts, opinions and methods won’t always match up to everyone else’s. You can’t expect to see eye-to-eye with everyone and this can become a problem, especially if that mismatch takes place between you and an employer.

One of the more important aspects of adulthood is being able to own up to your problems. As children (at least in my generation), our parents taught us to be honest about things and admit when we’ve done something wrong. Basically, the foundation for owning up to your problems has already been laid. But once childhood has melted away, a lot of us revert to blaming everything on others. And although other individuals will undoubtedly have some responsibility, it won’t be until you face up to your role in any specific issue that you can start to live with less stress.

One good example is an associate of mine that I’ve known for over twenty-five years. Good guy, good heart, he’d totally be one of those people who would drive an hour to spend the entire day helping you move your house. However… He’s one of those individuals who ALWAYS blames everything on everyone else. Even when the problem is a direct result of his actions, he still feels that he bears none of the responsibility.

Not everyone is that extreme. The person in question unfortunately butts heads with everyone in his environment; co-workers, supervisors and even the members of his household. And over just about everything! Someone took the parking spot he wants? Fight. There’s been a change in policy regarding something in his work? Refuses to do it and fights about it.

The main component of that last paragraph is to learn to pick your battles. Not everyone seems capable of this very simple thing, but some people go out of their way to try and ice-skate uphill! Honestly, when it comes to work, unless you’re the owner of your own company, sometimes it’s best to just clock in, do as you’re asked and clock out. There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, but tempting faith by refusing to do things on the job is just ASKING for trouble. But I digress…

The point of today’s post isn’t necessarily about CAUSING the problems so much as it’s about taking responsibility for them. That seems to be an aspect that most people have issues with. And there are a batch of really good, yet complicated psychological and physiological reasons why most people do this. For the most part, people are programmed simply to never admit that they’re wrong. For others it can be things like having a fear of failure, appearing weak to others or being a total douche. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist.

A had a conversation with a friend of mine named Marty, a little over a year ago when I was facing something difficult. Truth be told, I’m still neck-deep in that difficulty, but a theory he discussed got me thinking about who bears the responsibility behind the problems we face. There are always three sides to every problem in life: the part that’s your fault, the part that’s someone else’s fault and the part that’s random events outside your control.

The part that’s someone else’s fault. You don’t live on this planet alone. Because of that, things that you deal with will always have an outside component. Even when it seems as though it was something you did. The problem with this aspect, and the reason I listed it first, is because it’s the one most people tend to focus on. “How can I blame this on someone else?” is often the credo of the problem-solving millennial (I’m not limiting this concept to millennials, just to be clear)

Random events outside your control. There are elements of every problem that are simply the result of things you can’t change. A good example of this would be working on an important online project at home when a thunderstorm knocks out the power. This results in your project being lost to the ether due to the loss of internet. You can’t control the coming of a storm any more than you can control the tide or the phases of the moon… Sometimes you simply need to understand that there is LITERALLY nothing you can do to alter that aspect of the difficulty you face.

The part that’s your fault. This is the big one, the one people hate, the one people refuse to admit and deal with. See, no matter what the difficulty there are things you will have said and done that have gotten you to the here and now. This means that whether directly or indirectly, you bear some of the responsibility for where you’re at. This is where it becomes important to control one’s thoughts, words and actions in order to prevent causing and/or aggravating problems within your own life. This is not to say that you can’t offer up your opinion or voice your objections; it simply becomes a matter of picking your battles.

When you recognize the role you play in the events of your life and begin to be proactive in how you deal with, it can go a long way towards the elimination of suffering and the promotion of peace within your own life. There will always be an aspect of life that’s out of your control. And you can’t control others. You can only control yourself. I think it’s Epictetus who said, “It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Social Distancing Should Also Be Social Media Distancing

I know that anyone who’s read the majority of my posts will be aware that I’m not a big fan of social media. For those who are new here and may not be aware: I’m not a big fan of social media… In all seriousness, I consider social media to be somewhat harmful. Not because it’s inherently harmful in and of itself, but because some people choose to use it in harmful ways.

I’ve been off the social media scene for almost two years now, having done away with the likes of SnapChat and Facebook, due to issues they caused me in my professional life. I was partly responsible for these issues, since no person is ever ABSOLUTELY responsibility-free in any given issue, but after I learned the damage that having other people on social media caused, I chose to step away.

As the world continues to turn, the population continue to become more and more dependent on social media for even the smallest of social interactions. Everything from applying for jobs to dating, the more time passes, the more people are depending on their computers and their devices to do the talking for them. And as convenient as some of it may be (I’ve applied to a number of jobs online, it sure saves driving around and physically handing out resumes) there are some significant pitfalls, as well.

In some ways, a lot of ways, we’re slowly losing touch with our own humanity. No, I don’t mean that we’re all suddenly becoming robots. But we certainly are beginning to resemble automatons. I challenge any of you to walk through a public area, even one where a person should be paying attention to their surroundings such as the grocery store, and you’ll notice that the majority of the population have their faces buried in the screen of a smartphone.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m at the grocery store I pay attention to the aisle I’m in and the groceries I’m looking for. Weird concept, right? You would think that checking your Twitter or Facebook could wait until AFTER you’ve completed your errands. And no one really needs you to SnapChat the nachos you found at 20% off, regardless of how excited you may be.

In some ways, a lot of ways, I totally understand the compulsion. There’s an almost surreal addictive feeling behind some of the social media platforms that are out there. Up until late 2018, I would compulsively check my phone dozens of times throughout the work day, no matter what I had on the go. Nowadays I tend to limit myself quite a bit more, checking my phone only for phone calls and email purposes and occasionally searching for things that I’m curious or researching on.

A good example of how we’re stepping away from our humanity involves a story I’d like to share with you. I have a friend who used to be absolutely obsessed with online singles’ sites. In fact, over the course of a few very short years, he completely did away with meeting women in person, and depended solely on finding online profiles and attempting to meet people in this fashion. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying there’s necessarily anything wrong with meeting someone new online. But if it causes you to lose the ability to approach someone in person, then it can be more harmful than good.

The digital frontier allows people to present themselves in any way they see fit. Occasionally, this won’t be in keeping with their realistic selves and people get some rather nasty surprises when they meet in person. That’s only one of the pitfalls. Don’t even get me started on meeting someone online who ends up being of an opposing gender than you thought they’d be, or a creeper who’s trying to meet with minors. But I digress…

My friend spent a few years trying to meet “the one” through many of these singles’ sites. He went on some dates and even started some semi-lasting relationships with them. But they never lasted. Not in the way he wanted. I used to encourage him to go out somewhere and do it the old fashion way. Go sit at a coffee shop with a book and a beverage. You spot someone from across the room, your eyes meet, you share a smile and you walk over and introduce yourself. Maybe you chat for a while. Then you work up the courage to ask if they’d like to meet for coffee again. Maybe they say yes and offer up their phone number.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I believe this kind of thing still happens. Although not quite as I described above, I met my wife the old-fashioned way; live and in person. My friend finally yielded to my persistence and attempted to meet someone in person. His experience was grand. He attended a local book store and introduced himself to a woman and asked her if she could recommend a good book she may have read (pretty smooth, I thought). They hit it off and even went out once or twice. They ultimately moved on from one another, but the experience changed his perspective of the online scene.

Dating is only one aspect, but it’s an easy one to write about. But for the most part, our dependence on the Internet and social media is slowly pulling us away from the actual world around us. Although the world is currently caught in the throes of social distancing, there’s still a big, beautiful world out there. And it would be a shame if people completely disconnected from it in exchange for the cold, pixelated screen of a smart device. ☯

It’s Your Job To Know The Job

The job market is a strange thing. Anyone who’s looked for employment can surely relate to that effect, and likely agree. I always get a kick out of the eternal paradox of requiring potential candidates to gain experience, but every place of employment requires five years’ experience in order to get hired. The chicken or the egg, that’s the paradox they’re throwing at you.

I bring this up because I applied for a job last year, right before I took my walkabout in New Brunswick. If memory serves correctly, it would have been sometime around September of 2019. I won’t get into the details but it was a pretty enticing position, with the promise of a peaceful existence for my family and I. I eagerly applied and even visited the community where the job would be, all in the hopes that they would hire me.

Considering my current state of life, I was pretty motivated. I provided more information than was required through the job posting and kept in contact with the community’s mayor repeatedly over a three month period (the job was posted through the community’s town office). When I had an unrelated medical appointment that saw me travel past the community, I stopped into the town office and introduced myself, met the staff and even examined some of the equipment I’d be using if I were hired.

There was a lull, of course. The Christmas holiday came and went, and there wasn’t much news during those weeks as everyone was on holidays and no one was really communicating. I was warned that the community moves slowly and that every decision they take is extremely painful in how long it takes. I took the comment at face value at the time, but man, were they NOT kidding.

I got back in contact with the mayor sometime in early January of 2020, after the holidays had passed. That was when I discovered that the position was not only a significantly lower pay rate than what I currently enjoyed, it was only part time. I was crushed. I got into some in-depth discussions with the mayor about finding the funding to increase the position to 40 hours a week, but it was all left in the air.

Honestly, I kind of put the whole thing on the back burner and forgot about it for a few months. COVID-19 came and changed the world, and most of the little details I had sitting on that back burner became insignificant. Then I got an interesting e-mail last week from a “hiring manager” for the community in question. He was reaching out to have me fill out and complete a shit-ton of documents for an “application package” to get hired for the position I had coveted, some months ago.

I know exactly what you’re probably thinking. “If you want the job that badly, suck it up and complete the paperwork they’re asking you for…” First of all, shaddup! But seriously, there’s a trend that seems to see employers asking for the moon when all they need is the shadow. I felt as though I was either being slighted or not taken seriously, especially considering that I was more than adequately qualified for the position I was applying for. That may sound like a vanity (and it probably is), but it’s no less correct.

I politely informed the hiring manager that I had already submitted a resume, cover letter and all the pertinent certification and training documents that constituted a complete application package and that some of the requirements he was proposing were top-heavy and not appropriate for someone experienced in the field of employment we were discussing. He confessed that the position was still going forward as part-time, which I felt meant I could speak freely since I wouldn’t be pursuing the job anyway (I can’t surrender a full time job for a part time one, especially at a lower salary).

I contacted the mayor and informed him of the issues I felt were of concern. I was surprised when he responded and thanked me for my input and told me he would be discussing it with his hiring board. But I felt slighted at the fact I was being put through the ringer for a job I was already qualified, trained and experienced to do. and I’ve been dealing with that obstacle for the past two years.

With the end of the quarantine on the horizon, there will be a vacuum in the working world. Some jobs will never come back to what they were; the absence of certain positions will have shown employers that those positions will no longer be required. More’s the pity. Some jobs will need to be filled, and only those who are able to swallow their pride and fight to gain employment will be able to find it. Perhaps I have a bit of pride I need to be rid of, myself.

My mother always said, there’s no shame in any job. Even the most menial of jobs need to be done by SOMEBODY, so if you happen to be that SOMEBODY, do the job to the best of your ability and with pride. Then, you’re guaranteed that you’re working for a reason, no matter what job you do. I had to pass on this job, but employers need to understand that they may need to swallow some pride as well. Long, convoluted application processes won’t be the status quo, especially since the applying populace won’t have any of it. ☯