Crimes of Omission

Sometimes life throws us challenges that we cannot anticipate. It isn’t “fair”, but it is the way it is. Recently I was reading an article that said most of a person’s sins are sins of omission. Not that they did anything wrong, but rather they failed to properly prepare or anticipate upcoming challenges. Crimes of omission are particularly wrenching because hindsight is 20/20. We wish someone would have warned us. Jim Rohn once said, “It isn’t what the book costs, it’s what the book will cost you if you don’t read it.” If you never read Richest Man in Babylon you’ll never know the steps to financial independence. Will this impact you immediately? In small ways yes, but in larger ways, not until you are older and it’s much harder to make up for lost time.

A Case Study

Imagine you are a father (if you aren’t). You know that the most important thing you can give your children is your presence. You come up for a promotion, and your hours at the office increase, along with your paycheck. As a result, you get to see your family less and less over the passing years as you climb the corporate ladder. Then one day you wake up and your husband or wife tells you that your child has been caught using drugs. What did you do wrong? Nothing. There was no crime in choosing your career, but that choice means you omitted the choice to be more involved in the lives of your spouse and children. You were not “bad”, and you didn’t do anything “wrong”, you just neglected what you value as most important (your family) over something less important (money).

Common Crimes of Omission and their Antidotes

Luckily, we aren’t the first people to ever walk the earth. On our life’s journey, there are certain difficulties that we can expect and plan for. Our society does a poor job of preparing us to handle life’s problems. Perhaps our parents did better? Maybe not. Maybe we got lucky and found a mentor…but then again…maybe not. In any case, I hope that by sharing some common difficulties were are likely to face and how to deal with them, I can help be a mentor to someone who needs it.

  • Financial Independence
    • One of the great failings of the public school system is our ineptitude at teaching our students how money works and the importance of financial literacy. We can anticipate that a person without financial literacy will always have problems with money. My personal recommendations for money advice are Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, and of course classics like Richest Man in Babylon.
  • Relationships
    • The most relevant advice I have ever received on relationships came from Brian Tracy. In his book Eat That Frog he explains that the whole point of working hard and making money is so we can spend our money and time with those we love. He goes on to say that the quality of our relationships are in direct proportion to the amount of time we invest. Relationship advice is abundant and (in my opinion) sometimes not helpful. My personal recommendation for information about relationships comes from an unlikely source: How to Win Friends and Influence People. My experience is that if we spend sufficient time with our loved ones and interact with them using the principles written in that book, we have a good foundation to build off of.
  • Health and Fitness
    • This aspect is the most convoluted of all of the above in my opinion. I think most people can agree that a mainly whole food diet, coupled with cardiovascular and strength training is the ticket to better health and appearance. The best books I have read on this topic are ALL from Renaissance Periodization. Their training and nutrition advice has been the most helpful to me in regaining my desired levels of health and fitness.

No matter who you are, there are certain desires that are common to all people. We want to be healthy, wealthy, productive, and have positive relationships. Much of what determines our success in these areas are small repeatable actions, done over and over, for an extended period of time. Don’t fall prey to crimes of omission. Thanks for reading!

Success is Cyclical

No one has ever been consistently successful and conversely no one has ever been a consistent failure. The degree to which we succeed in life indeed depends on our efforts and character, but we must remember that outward success is different from self-esteem. Successes are external measures (money, fame, prestige, respect, etc.) of your performance. Self-esteem is the internal measure of your performance. While having and achieving goals is good and healthy, we must remember that there is a certain level of arbitrariness that goes along with that. This idea doesn’t destroy the excitement of achievement and success but rather attenuates and puts it into perspective.

When Good is Bad and Bad is Good

Think about it. If success were a constant, the greatest men and women would always remain perfectly esteemed and free from criticism, or at least close to it. When you achieve something, it is an outward reward based upon the external climate. What I mean by that is your environment rewards you for meeting its temporary needs. Winning the presidency is a reward for making the best case to the American people that you can meet their needs. Winning a powerlifting meet means that, in relation to the other lifters, you were the strongest. Being a popular girl at school means that your body type, fashion sense, and personality are being rewarded for meeting the needs/desires of your peers. All of these things are neither good nor bad, just neutral.

So success is an external validation based on you meeting someone or something’s needs. Let’s look at an extreme example. For a while, Adolf Hitler was very successful. That doesn’t mean he was “good” or “right”, but rather that he found a way to meet (or supposedly meet) other people’s needs and desires. I am sure that there were wildly intelligent, empathetic, and dutiful people in Germany at the time, but they didn’t rise to power. For whatever reason, the environment chose Hitler. My point here is that no matter who you are, you will never always be successful. It’s impossible. Precisely because external needs and wants are always changing.

A personal example. As a teacher I work with groups of students in various capacities. Some years, my students love me. So much so that they buy me gifts and come back years after they have left to see me. Other years, much less so. I don’t think my students have ever hated me, but some years there are no awards or heartwarming appreciation. I, at my core, haven’t changed. I always treat my students the same. But times and things change, and for whatever reason, I am not that special to them. And that’s okay!

Success and Self-Esteem

Success is cyclical and elusive. No sooner than you achieve something, the desire for something bigger and better comes along. One achievement is a spur to the next. Totally natural. But focus on the internal as well. Self-Esteem is a result of feeling good about yourself based on your pre-determined values. If you value family, you will have high self-esteem if you take actions that show that. If you value loyalty, every time you are there for a loved one you feel good about yourself. Success never stays around indefinitely, whereas self-esteem never leaves you so long as you cultivate it. I’m reminded of a Bible verse: Do not store treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, but store up treasures in heaven.

Time and seasons will change, and certain virtues will go in and out of popularity. Everyone is subject to this. Sometimes, external rewards will validate our work and other times they won’t. There’s nothing bad about it, it just is what it is. If you can set your values and stay true to them, you can end up with the cake upon which success is the icing. Thanks for reading!

The Pitfalls of Thin Skin

When I was a teenager, I did a lot of general home improvement and maintenance projects with my father. My dad is a no nonsense kind of guy. If he asked me to nail up a piece of drywall and it wasn’t done right, he would literally tear down the wall and make me do it again. If the lawn wasn’t completely free of leaves, I could look forward to an afternoon of raking. While these experiences were frustrating in the moment, they taught me valuable lessons. And not only do I not hold my father’s stern discipline against him, now that I am older, I thank him for it.

Thick Skin Comes from Difficulty (Real or Self-Imposed)

Nature gives endless examples of what happens to living things if they are never challenged. Take a human body and stop giving it exercise (challenge) and it will atrophy. Take a taxi driver and retire him, and his brain physically shrinks. Alternatively give a good amount of exercise (not too much, not too little) and you create a robust (and attractive) human body. Challenge the mind with learning city streets and you can physically grow the brain.

Life in the 21st century is a life of limitless ease. And that’s good! Never before have we had so much available to us with a minimum of effort. But interesting things start to happen as challenge leaves our lives. Our lack of physical exertion has created the proliferation of chronic disease. Our lack of deep, meaningful (and challenging) human interactions has made our minds weak as evidenced by growing mental illness and stress. Our intolerance to opposing viewpoints has made our egos fragile.

In a great irony, never challenging yourself leads to even greater challenges because you are weak. If you can lift 200 pounds, when you are presented with a 100 pound lift, you barely feel strain. But how did you become able to lift 200 pounds? You continually challenged yourself. Alternatively, if you are lazy and never challenge yourself, those 100 pounds will seem insurmountable (and may in fact be so). This metaphor extends into our relationships, dealings with money, and our spiritual lives as well.

Protecting Ourselves and our Loved Ones from Ease

I try not to name problem without a potential solution. If the problem is being weakened as a result of a cushy life, the solution is controlled difficulty. Obviously we don’t push ourselves so hard that we cause damage, but we push ourselves hard enough to gain adaptations.

  • To beat relational fragility, seek out and form human relationship with all types of people.
  • To beat physical fragility, exercise (weight lifting and cardio) consistently.
  • To beat financial fragility, practice frugality.
  • To beat mental fragility, seek out opposing viewpoints and challenge yourself with new (and perhaps even controversial) information.

I hope you found some valuable insights for how to beat the effects of fragility in your life. Thanks for reading!

Dear Coronavirus

I read an interesting article in which the author (in jest) wrote a prayer to Coronavirus. While meant to be satirical, it got me thinking about how Coronavirus has taught us many lessons if we wish to extract them. Here is my letter to the Coronavirus:

Dear Coronavirus,

Thank you for showing us the importance of family. In a real emergency we are forced to narrow our social circles to those who matter most. Thank you for reconnecting us with loved ones and reawakening our sense of collective duty. Thank you for giving us a reason to take special care of the sick and elderly. We have forgotten to do that for a while…

Thank you for showing us who our true leaders are. Thank you for exposing the opportunists and those prone to panic. Thank you for showing us the people of strong character, who look out for others and practice what they preach. Thank you for showing us the companies and institutions that care about people as more than just a dollar sign.

Thank you for making us slow down. We have been running furiously (to who knows where) for a very long time. Thank you for making us bored. Thank you for making us sit with ourselves in silence. Thank you for unearthing our need for continual stimulation. Now that we can see our low-level unrest, perhaps we can reorganize our society more mindfully.

You have already shown us so much, and I anticipate you will teach us more with each passing day.


Mr. Muse

Why You Should Always Keep Learning

Recently I decided to begin online coursework in Home Repair and Remodeling. I wanted to learn the basics and framework of what I already do here and there. Of course, I am learning lots and excited to keep learning and get into some new projects. This experience has led me to think about the importance of continually learning and growing. 

Many of us start our lives in a seemingly endless pursuit of knowledge (whether forced or voluntary). Think about it, we all spend 12 YEARS in a formal learning environment and then continue on for 4+ more years in the pursuit of Bachelors Degrees, Masters Degrees, and Doctorate Degrees. And then we settle in to our careers. The pace of any formalized learning usually significantly slows. We may take continuing education or professional development courses, but we rarely immerse ourselves in new learning like when we were younger. 

While reflecting on “going back to school” (although I can do my coursework from the comfort of my home), I realized that a part of me has come back alive that may have been sleeping for a while. I have felt renewed curiosity and energy for learning new things. I am excited to get back to learning more, and importantly, I can immediately apply my learning. Continually learning turns out to be good not only for our minds, but our bodies as well. 

Challenges Force our Bodies and Minds to Grow

It comes as no surprise that the number one way to destroy your body is to not use it. Cardiovascular efficiency will drop in a matter of days, and strength will drop in a matter of weeks. It is clear that in order to be physically healthy, we must continually challenge our bodies. 

The same thing applies to our minds. We may not notice it because it happens so slowly, but neglecting to use our minds in new ways can cause our minds to begin the process of atrophy. Something as simple as taking a new route to work can help keep our minds healthy. It has been shown that cab drivers in London actually have their brains shrink in size after retiring. Showing, rather dramatically, that your brain is indeed a muscle. As I get older I see how we can slip into routines and find almost a groove that we can kind of “coast” on. Of course, life continually throws us challenges, but we find routine ways of responding (or sometimes not responding) that help us continue to coast along. There are many ways that we can keep our minds healthy, so here are a few I have tried and have immediately noticed a renewed sense of aliveness and vigor:  

  • Taking courses in your career field
  • Learning a new recipe
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Improvisation (telling jokes, writing stories, etc.)
  • Creating and building (home repair, making furniture, replacing old light fixtures, etc)
  • Learning a new exercise 
  • Crossword Puzzles and Sudoku 

I think you get the idea. In conclusion, find new ways to use your mind. Or in other words, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it! 

How to Pick a Mentor

I have had short stints as a personal trainer in a couple of commercial gyms. Most personal trainers are naturally athletic people. Not to say they didn’t work hard or were not disciplined, but they had years and years of experience with playing sports or being active in other ways. I found that my clients always complimented me on how well I was able to break down different lifts and a framework for building fitness into their everyday lives. At first I thought it was because I am a teacher by trade (although that definitely helps). Then I realized that I was different as compared to most personal trainers: I had to learn it all myself. 

Growing up, my parents had me playing all types of sports. But I was never very good. I was always middle of the pack at school mile runs and I never particularly excelled at anything physically. I have been underweight, overweight, skinny, fat, muscular, skinny-fat, and any other body type you can think of. Because of this, I know what it feels like and what it takes to start a fitness journey from ground zero. When choosing a teacher, choose someone who has experiences similar to yours. That way they can guide you through the process knowing what big challenges and opportunities lie on the path of your success journey. 

The Natural and Unconscious Competence

Imagine you want to become president of the United States. Would you ask George W. Bush or Barack Obama for advice? I would suggest you ask Barack Obama. Why? Because he likely started from where you are. No particular advantages, but a desire to work hard and be president. What about George W. Bush? He would give well meaning advice, but none of that takes away from the fact that he was groomed from a young age for the presidency. His dad was a president. He likely learned so many small lessons he didn’t even know he was learning, had so many advantages that others could only dream of, and had a support system to help him along the way. 

I say that to say naturals are what we call unconsciously competent. Meaning they know how to achieve results, and they aren’t thinking about it. It just happens. Now of course they are following the same rules that guarantee success for anyone, but they didn’t learn them by themselves. Let’s say you find a trainer. He was captain of the football team and then played intramural flag football as an adult. Sure, he can be a great trainer, but he may have trouble helping someone starting from square one because he has never been there. Conversely, think of Linda. Linda was my mentor for a while at one of the gyms I worked at. Linda was 50 years old and only got into fitness at the age of forty after her sister had gotten sick. Linda is now fit and healthy. She knows what it’s like to start at square one. No athletic history. Her parents weren’t athletes. She was self made. This made her not only relatable, but very proficient at explaining what it takes to get from point A to point B. 

So the next time you are looking for a personal trainer, a teacher of some sort, or a mentor, remember that the people who can help you the most are usually the people who achieved success from ground zero. 

How to Cultivate Your Aura

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think about that a lot. This points to a bigger idea that people, places, and situations can sense who we are and what we stand for just by being in our aura. All these little visual and energetic cues allows people (who are in tune with themselves) to get a “vibe” from us without hearing us say anything. I know it sounds woo-woo, but we all have the experience of meeting a person and being immediately off put by them without knowing exactly why. Or being very drawn to a person without a conscious reason. Whether we realize it or not, the world responds to us based on our energy. 

Our Knowledge, Skills, and Experiences Create our Aura

My wife and I always joke that we can tell when someone is rich. There is a certain quality that shines through. Even nasty rich people. They walk differently, smell differently. It’s rather uncanny. Also the expensive clothes give a clue too. 😉 Or think of a professional musician. You can sense power in someone who has attained a certain level of mastery. 

In my estimation, our aura is the result of our knowledge, skills, and experiences. When you take time to learn skills, study, and provide yourself with meaningful experiences, you cultivate an aura that others can sense. Even if you are having a bad day and your clothes are tattered, most self-aware people can see through those surface level things to your essential core. 

Imagine someone with little to no knowledge, skills, and experience. We probably know people like that. They are super uncomfortable to be around. We can sense that something is amiss. That doesn’t make them bad people but it limits them. Here’s why: 

People, places, and situations respond mainly to who we are not what we do. 

Bill Harris at Centerpointe Research Center would say:  “We have control over what people, places, and situations we attract”. We attract people, places, and things based on our energy. Of course time and chance happen to us all, but most of our life results come from what our energy has attracted. 

So how do we increase our energy or aura? Once again, I would say that we need to seek out knowledge, skills, and experiences. These three ways we can develop ourselves will build instant equity to our energetic vibe. Imagine someone who is a scholar of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. They are a concert pianist, and they have traveled the world. They have raised beautiful children and have a loving wife. They are kind, strong, and principled. Imagine the immense energy they would bring anywhere they go. How nice would it be to be around such a person? Whenever we take a chance to improve our energy, life responds. 

Thanks for reading!

How to Not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think at all may prove to be a fool’s errand. Of course we care (even if only a little) about what those important to us think. That is natural. What I am speaking of here is how to live our lives so that the need for approval doesn’t stunt our authenticity. 

Answers to big questions are often simple. Not easy, but simple. It may take a significant amount of time to actualize them, but the idea itself is simple. 

Why do we Seek Approval?

There are many habits in life that are the vestiges of our earlier human development. Approval seeking is a great example. Think about it. You are out in the wilderness with your tribe. You cannot survive alone. Because of this, staying in everyone’s (particularly the leader’s) good graces is a matter of life and death. Fast forward to modern life, there are very few people whose approval we need to live a good life. The only exception may be as a child. As a child, we should get the unconditional approval of our parents, but that is a different story for another day. 

We seek approval for fear of being cast out of whatever group we are in. If our friends love to gossip, chances are we will too, because our brains are telling us that if we don’t, we risk being kicked out of the group (that might not be a bad thing). Now, translate this to other areas of your life that could hold you back. Maybe you want to become a writer, but the criticism from those around you stunts your efforts. You want to study a new skill, but your sister unintentionally giggles when you tell her. That is when this perfectly normal survival mechanism becomes a sabotage mechanism. 

How to not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think comes down to values. Story time. When I was in my early twenties, I loved reading articles from Brian Tracy. One of his suggestions was to come up with a list of values. I wracked my brain and had to confront the sobering truth that I didn’t have any. I had the values that other people wanted for me, but I had not developed them on my own. I mostly forgot about that exercise for a number of years. 

Fast forward 5-7 years, and with some valuable life experiences, I developed my own set of values without even thinking about it. After years of dealing with the problems of daily living, I naturally unearthed what was important to me. 

Whenever we fear the criticism of others, it is because we have not decided what is important to us. Don’t get me wrong, the fear may always be there, but in a much less overwhelming way that won’t stop you from taking action. When you have your values in order, you will realize that the only person whose approval you desperately need is your own. Other people’s opinions matter, and sometimes we need to alter our values based on valuable feedback. But the ultimate change is up to us. Getting your values in order may take some time. Life experience will help you unearth them even if you aren’t trying to. Exercises like this one can help you start, but remember, life experience is what will ultimately set your values in stone. 

Thanks for reading!

Witch Hunts (and why they happen…)

The Era of the “Witch Hunt”

Perhaps to call it an “era” is an overstatement, because this is something we humans have been doing a long time. The idea of a witch hunt seems to have drawn a lot of attention lately because of Donald Trump. Whenever asked to confront a poor decision, provide an explanation of his actions, or admit guilt, he immediately frames the request as a witch hunt (whether overtly or covertly). I would argue that Donald Trump is not totally wrong.

This article isn’t about whether or not Donald Trump is a good person. This article is about why him framing any investigation to him as a witch hunt is a palatable idea for many people. Of course, those who detest him will proclaim that it’s all a front to change the subject (and it might be..), but others see this as a very real phenomena. They see it as the grasping of those who have been defeated. And I would argue that they are right

The Modern Witch Hunt

I would like to make the case that a witch hunt is the result our inability to fully cope with reality.

Let’s take a little trip back in time to the presidency of Barack Obama. For those who saw him as a beacon of light and hope, those eight years were full of smiles and positive growth. But the other half of the story is the story of sore losers.

Let us not forget that while some of America was rejoicing, other parts of America were in mourning. They lost. Bad. Their beliefs and ideas were hit very hard. The world began changing in all the ways they didn’t want it to. For goodness sake, he invited RAPPERS to the White House. He allowed “gay” people to get married. Preposterous!

So how did they react? Witch hunts.

Even with Obama’s eerily squeaky clean record, they found places to strike, “He is a socialist”, “He wasn’t born in America”, “He is a Muslim”. A picture of social panic was painted. Not because any of those things were true, but because the losers didn’t want to accept their fate.

Why Donald Trump is kinda Right

Fast forward to late 2016. The tables have suddenly turned. Those in mourning now rejoice, and those who were rejoicing now mourn. Then things get interesting, there is evidence to show all kinds of corruption in the new administration. And Donald Trump (quite cleverly) frames all of it as a witch hunt.

It sounds like such a good excuse to his supporters. Why? Because they did the same thing when they lost. To reiterate, this is not about Donald Trump. It is about what we do when we “lose”. Perhaps Donald Trump innately understands that if he can frame his opponents as sore losers, he can gain a base of sympathy.

Why Witch Hunts Happen

As I stated earlier, witch hunts happen because we are unable to fully cope with our reality. In our resistance of what is, we need to create an enemy (whether it be a person, philosophy, political party, etc.).

What this does is it partially resolves our conflict. If everything is bad because of something outside of us, it relieves us of some personal responsibility. Now, we can blame everything on the “big bad wolf” instead of 1) accepting our fate, 2) doing something to change it, or 3) finding a better situation.

As I said earlier, this article isn’t about Donald Trump. It is about how alike we are when we lose, and hopefully providing a new vision for coping with the inevitable reality that we will sometimes “lose”. Until next time…

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