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February 25, 2017

To Be An American Citizen…

(reposted from facebook, the text below this box is exactly the same as the text within it)

I imagine there is a certain, simple, satisfaction in not actually having an argument or an awareness of facts; but rather simply blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind, or the most recent thing you’ve heard.

I cannot fathom putting partisan orthodoxy or talking points above intellect, logic or reason. However, I watch people (intelligent people) from both (all) sides of the political spectrum do it every single day.

It seems “having an answer” (or, in most cases, simply a retort) is all that matters. Validating that it’s a reasonable response often isn’t part of the equation.

As listeners, more and more, we passively ignore (therefore tacitly accepting) this behavior; failing to engage in conflict with conjecture, thereby further weakening the resolve of reality.

what is an american

A government “of the people, by the people, for the people” requires an educated and engaged populous. Democracy does not (cannot) support a race to ignorance. Thomas Jefferson, when addressing the need for a literate electorate, said that – given the choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government – “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

If you favor our form of government, our freedoms, our open marketplaces then the time is now to fortify the failing foundations of that framework. Put away your partisan talking points, your canned retorts, and your simplistic meme’s, and actively engage others who don’t do the same.

Living as an American in the United States was, by design, intended to be advanced citizenry; not for the lazy or feint of heart.

No matter how comforting or safe it may feel, you simply cannot be ambivalent and a patriotic citizen of this country at the same time. They are mutually exclusive conditions. The question is, which one are you going to be?

July 1, 2015

I Love it When I’m Wrong

I love it when I’m wrong, it’s one of my favorite phrases… and today… I was wrong. In being so, I also learned something about myself, reflection, and that (sometimes lost) art my parents taught me of thinking before you speak.

A few days ago EL James (author of 50 Shades of Grey) decided to hold a Twitter Q&A… this was a disaster. As a non-fan of the movie (I admit I didn’t read much the book (I didn’t get far before the writing turned me off)… but have read lots about it if that counts for anything), I thought the Twitter roast was hilarious and started sharing the “good times” with some friends (read: sharing the best Twitter slams for us to mutually titter and cackle about). That’s what I was doing when I came across this one:

It was (and if I’m being honest *is*) hilarious, and I was soon zipping it around to friends. But then, I read a bit more of @avestal’s Twitter feed (which you should check out… he’s funny and has his head on right) and came upon this (it’s a feed so you have to read it from the bottom up… I’m too lazy to have reshuffled it for you… sorry):

And that’s when I had my personal “oh shit” moment. You see, Andrew (sorry if that is too personal, Andrew, we don’t really know each other after all) is dead on with his assessment of “But–maybe don’t punch.” I constantly preach about positivity and treating others with respect… and here I was glorifying the very public flogging of someone who had put herself out there, taken a chance and written her book. I’m not saying for a second my opinion of the movie (or book, what few words of it I read) has changed… but there is no need for me to be personally bashing the woman who wrote it (or glorifying anyone else for doing it).

Mr. Vestal acquitted himself far better than I did in this whole thing and I can’t undo the sharing I’ve already done; however, I can say I learned from (and hopefully will be better because of) it and for that I’m thankful.

May 21, 2015

With all Due Respect to Maya Angelou (and Mark Twain)

I love Maya Angelou, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an office that didn’t contain at least one book or collection of hers… this one is on my office bookshelf right now:

However, multiple times a week (sometimes a day, depending on how much free time I am wasting) I’ll see the following on Facebook or Pinterest or somewhere else:

Now, I get where she (and he, before her) is/was going with this. And, on an individual basis – complete with a healthy dose of proper context – I guess I wouldn’t even put up much of a fight about it. However, taken against a more general canvas I think I struggle with the potential message.

Here’s the thing, my entire bio on Twitter (and other places as well) consists of this “what you think of me is none of my business.” Now while that may seem a bit egotistical or something, I assure that is not where it is coming from. The point, simply is that my character, my self-confidence, and (most importantly for this discussion) my actions are not guided by someone else and their opinions… especially of me.

If I’m going to give (whether it is money, time, advice or something else) to someone in need what I’m not going to to is pre-screen that gift against what that person thinks of me… that is completely irrelevant to their need, which is what I’m (at least theoretically) addressing by my actions.

This thought process goes beyond giving. In my everyday life I don’t make decisions about what I think about people based on my perceived notion of how they view me. For starters, how fleeting would my opinions of people be in that instance; reevaluating them each time they had an emotional reaction to something I did?

There are people in my life that I view as priorities who I know for a fact do not view me as such. Some view me as options… some probably view me far worse than that. I don’t care, it has nothing to do with my feelings, respect, or prioritization of them. And frankly, if it did – and I was honest with myself – I’m pretty sure I’d find that petty and small of me. I’m pretty sure most parents have experienced the priority/option paradox with their children, and I doubt any of them are willing to throw out the (mostly grown) baby with the metaphorical bathwater.

So, as much as I revere and respect Maya (and perhaps even Mark.. although I certainly don’t have as “close” a relationship with him as I do her), I have to part ways on this notion. I get the “don’t be trampled upon” idea, but when taken generally I think the bad outweighs the good on this one. You can avoid being trampled on because of a slogan, or you can avoid it because of an inner strength and confidence garnered by setting your own compass, cutting your own jib, and being true to yourself and your feelings. If I were in the business of giving advice, I’d point people toward the latter option…

November 20, 2014

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve decided if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them. Since “everyone” is ramping up for Christmas already; despite the fact that it’s still November and Thanksgiving is a full week away I figure I might as well try to do something constructive with the momentum. So here is my Christmas list (fully inclusive of all of my desires for this year).

1. Stop the bigotry, hate, derision, and fear. Break free of the onerous trappings of ignorance and embrace others for what they truly are… people, just like you and I, trying to move through and make the best of their lives.

That’s it… that’s all. Ready go!

This starts with stereotyping, and I’m not even thinking about “little black sambo,” the drunken indian, or the nerdy socially awkward (but super smart) Asian (or any of the other myriad of examples where minorities are marginalized by the generalities we cast upon them). No, today I’l focused a little closer to home (at least for me)… this has popped up on my facebook timeline four or five times over the last 24 hours:

Now, based on the tried and (arguably not) true axiom that “it’s okay if we say it to/about ourselves,” I should be okay going through the machinations of figuring out my redneck elf name. It’s all in good fun, and I’m not making fun of anyone but myself.

Except… I am. In reality this effects everyone. First and most directly, of course, it effects any and all “white” people who see it. Beyond that, though, it effects literally everyone… in so many ways. Once I get comfortable disparaging myself or those who are like me, the bar (of resistance) is lowered when it comes to grouping other people (and subsequently, potentially stereotyping them as well). I am tacitly approving of a society based on inclusion (and therefore also exclusion)… a culture of “us and them,” rather than “we.”

This type of thing is the toughest to get away from as well. Because it seems harmless, and self-effacing/deprecating, so why should anyone else be offended. The thing is, not offending someone (even though, perhaps it should) doesn’t mean what you have said or done is right; or, more importantly, best.

We don’t need to live in a divisive, unkind world. But if we are going to try to exist another way, it will take effort… including giving up some of our creature comforts like making fun of ourselves (and others) in a mean spirited way.

So there is it. my Christmas wish for 2014. And, since I am certainly guilty of doing this myself, I’ll go ahead and double down and make it my New Years resolution while I’m at it.

PS: Not judging anyone who did this and/or had fun doing so. This sort of thing is absolutely a societal norm in our culture and noone should be belittled for taking part in it. I just have a vision for what I believe is a better world for my children and their children to grow up in… and it starts with treating each other (and ourselves) better than we currently do.

August 2, 2014

What’s the opposite of a bucket list? #InTheCan

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life — Tags: , , — sbj @ 5:01 am

I thought it might be nice to backup the “bucket list” train for a bit and get on the gratitude/appreciation express for a minute. It’s not that I don’t like having goals or that I don’t want to do cool things.. I just don’t want to have a list of things I want to do sitting around waiting to be crossed off. I moreso just want to do cool stuff until I can’t do things anymore (cause I’m dead). If I were to make a bucket list, I think that’s all that would be on it… “do cool things until I can’t do them anymore.” If I did have a second item on the list, it would probably be “share those things with others, especially the people that I love.” That would be it though… three or more is just piling on! ;)

But I digress…

What I’d like to do today is tell a few (short/abreviated) stories, and spend some time reflecting gratefully on some of the opportunities I have had. So without delay, a partial glimpse into my (to borrow from the movie industry) “in the can” list, in my life thus far, I have:

  • Run the New York Marathon. I’ve actually run a couple of marathons, but only New York was completed while languishing through a hideous case of food poisoning (or, more precisely, while suffering from an allergic reaction to unwittingly eating shellfish the night before). Naturally I recall that part of the experience quite vividly, however more clear in my memory is 2 million people lining the streets… rooting… for me (which is exactly what it felt like, that they were all there for me… it’s hard to explain, and surreal to experience). It was amazing, there were bands playing, families screaming in support, and – in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Gotham – children holding out their trick or treat bags for runners to have a snack along the way.
  • Learned survival and safety techniques… on a glacier. One of the most exhilarating (and flat out scary things I have ever done was learning how to self-arrest on a sheet of ice. From bagging multiple peaks to rappelling down cliff faces into caves (where we subsequently spent the night) there were plenty of amazing experiences on my Outward Bound trip, but nothing is quite like rocketing down the face of a glacier, on your back, head first, with the knowledge that if you fail to stop yourself you will crash into a mini-mountain of rocks at the bottom. As you are reading this now, clearly, I managed to properly apply the breaks… thanks Outward Bound instructors!!!
  • Participated in collegiate athletics. Long before I laced up a competitive high-top, I ran college cross country. What a change from high school. The first week of training I took bloody socks off my feet almost every day. I ran harder, faster and simply better than I ever had in my life… and still was a middle of the pack runner (until I injured my foot… then I wasn’t even that). The jump from high school to college competition was staggering, and something that absolutely changed my life. You never know what you can do until you push yourself beyond what you previously thought was impossible. Once you do that, however, you truly begin to believe that you can do anything.
  • Started a family. Yep it sounds cliche, but there is nothing in the world like having and raising children. My kids are the best thing I have ever done, or will do. There is nothing that I can achieve that will come close and, being completely frank, if you’ve had children and your life isn’t complete, you and I have a different standard for satisfaction (which doesn’t mean your’s is wrong… it is just different than mine). My children are a big part of why I don’t need or want a “bucket list”.. my bucket is – for all intents and purposes – already full, from them alone.
  • Had (and won) a duel over a girl I had just met. Okay, the “swords” were straw beach mats and the “duel” was really just deciding who was going to ride with her… but none of that is the point. We dodged, parried, and thrusted all over the Santa Monica pier making a spectacle (or in some peoples opinions, probably a body part) out of ourselves and were completely alive and in the moment. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are certain times in life when you realize you are really alive. It’s not worth being alive if you ain’t living!

That’s it for now. I might do more later, but for now five mini-stories feels about right. What about you… what stories/adventures do you have #InTheCan

January 1, 2014

Happy New Years… maybe…

It’s New Years Eve and, as is the case some years, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year, my life, the state of the world I live in and my impact upon it. I don’t always do this… some years I’m very “New Years Snobbish” and convince myself that this type of reflection should be a daily occurrence and not something reserved for the end/beginning of the year. Those years I consider New Years Resolutions (or even “deep” personal introspection) to be anything from passionate pretense to pandering-preachy-(self)promotion (or at least an excuse for shameless alliteration ;) ). This is not one of those years (next year – or even tomorrow – I will undoubtedly hate myself for writing this).

I’ll start by sharing my basic frame of mind going into the day (and I’ll do it in classic egocentric form, by quoting myself)

I don’t currently recall when or why I said that (other than it was earlier this year) but I do recall how true it rang when I first said it, and I also recognize how much it resonates with me in these last few hours of 2013.

This should not be confused as some fire and brimstone sermon about how we are hurdling toward Armageddon (even if, perhaps, we are). In fact, as difficult as this may be to digest based on that quote, I am somewhat optimistic right now. I’m hopeful because of this other little narcissistic jewel I’m going to drop on you (once again, me quoting me):

See, I told you, I’m little Mary sunshine!

Seriously though, here’s the thing. While I struggle, on a day to day basis, to find much moral, intellectual, or even self-sustaining value in our society, I do continue to be reminded and confronted by acts of charity, compassion, and kindness; and in these things, in our humanity, I see hope for our species. It makes me think that, perhaps sometime soon, before it is truly too late we will begin to act – as a society – as though we are a community; a mesh network of interconnected (and interdependent) people, rather than an ever growing collection of individuals related by proximity… and little else.

To me, this would be the big turning point in the history of mankind (and the one thing that might enable us to overcome the threat of extinction). The ability to see ourselves as being a part of the same team, hoping to achieve the same goals, rather than adversaries competing for the same commodities.

So that’s my goal, or, if you prefer, resolution: To seek out, focus upon, glorify, and empower humanity; to find or build synergies with both my best friends and “worst enemies” for the sake of a common goal we may or may not as yet even fully recognize; and to do my part in fulfilling the potential and promise at the foundation of each and every New Years wish/dream/resolution ever made… to live happily ever after…

September 4, 2011

They are not (nor should they be) role models…

role models

Sir Charles had it right…

Mind you, I’m not crazy about anyone using that mantra as an excuse to be a beacon of how not to behave; however, the fact of the matter is that neither he, nor any other professional athlete should be considered a role model. We do not follow, cheer for, idolize (whatever) athletes for the quality of their character, we pay attention to them because either they win, or the try to win games (preferably but not exclusively for our favorite teams).

We don’t really know anything about these guys and yet we want to be “like Mike” (that’s a nod to my generation… today’s kids want to be King James or – shudder – Brock Lesnar etc.). I get wanting to have their abilities… especially in that rub-the-lamp-and-get-it-without-working sort of way… but actually looking up to them and wanting to be them?

Again, Barkley (and Nike) had it right. Nike has come up with several of the better endorsement themes over the years, and by better, I mean somewhat responsible. This one comes to mind as well:

But… if it is a role model you are looking for, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. Notice the young man/ladie holding the door for others at the movie theater and acknowledge the role model before you. Take the time to tip your hat to a volunteer at a nearby hospital or shelter, recognizing their admirable behavior. Next time you see a parent making it all work and putting their kids first, understand that this is an actual act of character, worthy of impersonation.

Being a real role model takes consistent character and conviction; its about the litany of little things done over and over again despite lack of thanks or recognition. I’t not about the glam shot… and its anything but a slam dunk.

September 2, 2010

Does this work for you?

Both of these worlds exist today, which one you grow up in is decided entirely by luck (where you happen to be born), neither of these children “earned” their fate.  Are you okay with that?  If not, have you thought about what you can do about it?

Cute, ins’t he? :)

That’s a sewer, by the way…

Today I am starting up a project to try to make a difference (not necessarily for this child, or any other homeless child).  My intention is to start up an organization that facilitates technical support for non-profits.  ”Member” organizations or individuals might provide free web sites, online presence, or simply help an organization put a printer on a network.

I have no idea how successful (success being defined by how many people I am able to help) I (we) will be in this venture, but at least I will not feel as though I am idly existing while this disparity of opportunity continues.

If you think you might have some technical skills that would be of value, and you are willing to donate them (there will be no revenue from this effort… this is an exercise in giving) let me know.  I will follow up with you once things get rolling.

June 9, 2010

Microwave a Pop Tart for 3 seconds…

Filed under: A life worth living,Conversations,Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 4:09 pm

There is a phrase/question, a little overused, but of value none the less, that goes something like this:

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow (in a week/in a month/whatever), what would you do; and, why aren’t you doing it?

The message is simple and clear, you only get one crack at it, why not make the most of it… starting now.  People are often surprised when they run out of time, they wonder where their lives went and why they never climbed that mountain, jumped out of that (perfectly sound!!!) airplane, or went on that grand adventure.

The bottom line, however, is this: if you wait long enough, everything will stop becoming an option.  Eventually, there will be no marathons to run, no scuba dives to make, no cross country road trips to take… no tomorrow.  We are each granted a finite number of “today’s” and an even smaller (by one) number of “tomorrow’s.”  With that comes the inevitable question: what are you doing with them?

I was enjoying a conversation with someone this morning about their “bucket list.”  It included things like “see the northern lights,” and “save someone’s life” (rather amazingly, given that she is a teen, the latter is already accomplished and crossed off of her list).

What really caught my attention though, were a few other items, exemplified perfectly by “Microwave a Pop Tart for 3 seconds.”  It is both less random and more pedestrian than it sounds, those are the exact microwave preparation instructions on the package.  But that is the simple curious beauty of this particular item.

So often it is the everyday things that we do not do that haunt us later in life.  It is living within 30 minutes from the coast, but only having been to the beach a handful of times (or, gasp!!! … not at all); living in Vegas, but never seeing a show; in San Francisco but never having walked the golden gate bridge or visited Alcartaz.

We get so engrossed in our lives we often have to leave town to relax and enjoy living them.

Several months ago (the end of September, 2009), inspired by my friend Claudia, I set out to accomplish 100 goals in 100 days.  Today (June 9th, 2010) I have accomplished (drum roll please!!!) 78 of them.  Obviously, in order to be realistic, many of these goals were set very low to the ground.  Others were more lofty and would require quite a bit of effort to accomplish.

What is interesting to me, however, is that the rate of success on the low hanging fruit is roughly the same as that of the complex tasks.  In fact, if I had managed to accomplish all of the relatively effortless items (i.e. “clean out my domain inventory” and “review and update my birthday calendar”), I would have accomplished 96 of my 100 goals instead of 78.

Again, simple attainable goals, even though – in this case – I had the advantage of identifying and setting out to accomplish them, left incomplete.  When I look back at my nearly 300 days since creating the list, there is no way to justify not having time to accomplish any of the items on my list (okay, maybe the movie was pushing it a bit), let alone the little ones.  Yet, undone 22 of them remain.

If yesterday, today was my last tomorrow… I’d certainly like to think I had lived my life to the fullest.  Maybe I didn’t get my domains sorted out, but that at least I had spent my time enjoying life, satisfying my curiosities, and doing the little things that make life worth living, no matter how simple they might be.

… like microwaving a Pop Tart for three seconds…

April 2, 2010

You could do far worse things with just over an hour…

Filed under: A life worth living,Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , — sbj @ 3:58 am

So, here’s the deal.  What started out as a seed for a simple blog entry has turned into more of a project.  Some time ago I solicited my socnet for input and help in creating a playlist that a person might play to their daughters; hoping that they would get the right messages from the songs and the play list could help shape them while it entertained them.

The Youtube playlist below is the result of that solicitation.

Today as I was mastering (which, soon, you will see I didn’t finish doing) the play list I realized a few of things.  First of all, I cannot possibly put all of the songs of value into one reasonably sized play list. Secondly, I also cannot properly express the value (to me, anyway) of each of these songs by putting them in a playlist.  Finally, I realized that neither me, nor my dedicated (but rather small) socnet are going to be able to capture everything I want to say with what is available to us in our musical lexicon.

With all of that in mind I am expanding this little blog post into a not so little project.  A project designed to capture as much musical knowledge from my friends as possible, harness the knowledge and lessons therein, and share it in a meaningful way.

More details on that over the weekend (once I have fully wrapped my head around it).  But, since you all have been so patient waiting for me to put this list together… without further ado… the opening salvo in this little musical journey…

An hour (plus) that just might leave you better than it found you

Ps… I think my love affair with Christina Aguilera and India Arie shines through pretty clearly here, ironically, though, I did not contribute to this list, it is 100% provided by friends.  It appears my friendship “apple” doesn’t stay far from its “tree” either :)

PPS please please please suggest more songs in comments… I am beyond eager to have more great songs to listen to and share!!!

December 30, 2009

helps the medicine go down…

If you have read my blog for a while, you are aware of my friend Alison and her project 365 blog. If you are not familiar, in short, she has dedicated her blog to being publicly thankful to the people in her life (no matter how ancillary they might or might not be).

Yesterday, she wrote a piece (http://300sixtyfive.blogspot.com/2009/12/day-290-non-rushing-one.html) that exemplifies why I so enjoy reading her work.  Alison recognizes little things that often go under-appreciated, ignored or just missed altogether.

I have been the driver of that minivan and, I am ashamed to say, have also been upset when they don’t acknowledge the gesture. Every time I have done that I have subsequently felt small and petty.  I didn’t let them in to get thanks, so why do I get upset when I don’t get it?

The simple reality, though, is that people who do good things (no matter how large or small) should be recognized for it and should be encouraged to continue.  In my opinion, that encouragement is as good for the accolader as it is for the accoladee, as the positive aspects of the act are reinforced for both.

I guess what I want to say is, thanks Alison!  It makes my life more pleasant knowing there are people out there like you, paying attention to and acknowledging the real greatness in this world… like a couple unhurried seconds in the life of an anonymous woman in a red minivan.

On a good day it reinforces my world view… and on a bad day… it is… well… a spoonful of sugar :)

January 3, 2009

What it’s all about…

Filed under: A life worth living,Make the world better — sbj @ 3:33 am

Since I read this earlier tonight I have been pondering things I could say to add to the story.  Bottom line, there aren’t any, so, without fanfare or preamble… here you go.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373

December 30, 2008

I love little reminders…

Over the last month, largely because of my sisters urging which preceded an influx of family and then friend “pressure” (in the best sense of the word) I have been dragged (at first kicking and screaming, now just kicking… in more of a “love tap” sort of way) into the world of Facebook.

I have linked up with friends and family from around the country and to a lesser degree, the world, and as much as I hate to admit it, I have not hated it. However, what it has really done it serve as a reminder. Today I added a friend from Kansas, the first thing I did, of course, was to check out her profile. Here is her most recent update:

My Kiva family just made another payment on their loan. I’m really proud of them!

Her Kiva family! In case you are not familiar with http://www.kiva.org it is a service that allows individuals to give loans to other individuals in need. Specifically, entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world so that they can (to quote the website) “lift themselves out of poverty.”

Kiva is a great cause, and, I’m once again impressed and endeared to this particular friend; however, on a broader scale, I am reminded that you become what you surround yourself with and, I am probably on the path of becoming a pretty good person, based on the friends I have chosen over the past couple of years.

I have surrounded myself with some pretty spectacular people; people with amazing value systems and warm and giving hearts. I’m a very lucky person to have such friends and appreciative of my friend in Kansas for (inadvertently) reminding me of this.

That is all, over and out! J

And what from my wandering mind should appear…

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 1:39 am

It is interesting how the dominoes fall once the first one is pushed. Even more interesting is how often the person doing the pushing has no idea there are other dominoes behind the object on which they are exerting force.

Completely oblivious to the chain reaction ahead, they take what appears to be a relatively insignificant step. Sometimes that domino is a physical action, but sometimes it is more of a concept piece.

When a core belief is shaken, it can completely break a person. At the very least it tends to send them down a voyage of self discovery that is both dark and painful. Rarely do people know how much of their lives are built around these foundational beliefs until the perceived security they provide comes tumbling down.

You’ve heard stories about this before, athletes that assume all of their self worth is tied up in their ability to hit a baseball, shoot a basketball or throw a football. Then their path to success is cut short, either by injury, or the simple fact that they overestimated their own abilities. At this point many of these people break. They do not renew their efforts in a new field, they simply quit.

You see the same thing in business, and love. Often this breakage is so severe that it leads to suicide. A person takes their own life because the life they have constructed around a particular belief (either in themselves or something else) has proven itself to be folly.

It is easy to do, I know because I am familiar with disappointment, both in people and in situations. I built my life around the basic premise that people are good and given the option, do good things. Over and over again, I was let down; and over and over again, I convinced myself that these were the exceptions that made the rule.

Finally, I accepted that fact that the majority of the people out there are not good, at least not in the way I am defining it here. For this conversation what I mean by good is that they are more selfless than selfish. Sadly, on that benchmark, the human race has failed me, and my core belief system.

On a positive note, however, this is a foundational crack I was able to roll with fairly easily (sort of like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny). I have adapted my approach to life and am moving ahead with a greater sense of purpose than I had before. You see I view this as a fixable crack, and I’m out to be part of the fixing process.

I have experienced other cracks recently that have not been so easy to accommodate. Nothing devastating on a suicidal scale, but certainly a 9.5 on the wow-now-I-have-to-question-everything-about-this-o-meter. I have had to reevaluate my opinions of myself and the value I add to those around me. I have had to reevaluate my choices in friends, partners and alliances (yes, in this case those are all very different things).

I have had to assess my strategic advantages and weaknesses as well as my barriers to competition and my overall value proposition. I have balanced my personal budget (monetarily as well as emotionally, etc.) and I have made plans to eliminate redundancies and take advantage of economies of scale. In short, I have had to rebuild my personal business plan.

In the days to come those around me will see a leaner more efficient me. One more grounded with a new or refined sense of fundamental values. It’s a little sad that sometimes it takes a rather significant event to refocus your efforts; however, there is a phrase that goes “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Right now… I’m feeling very, very strong…

December 10, 2008

Five Easy Pieces…

Recently, I was asked by a friend (friend as defined as a Senior from one of the centers I do volunteer tech support for) to help him come up with a very quick list of five things to tell his estranged grandson when he visits.  He (the senior) is on his last leg as they say, and his daughter is bringing his grandson from New Jersey to visit him before he passes.  He wanted to pass on a few tips to his grandson, but because of the pressure of the situation and, to a lesser degree, his deprecated mental state, he couldn’t think of anything to say.  This was, of course, on the phone, impromptu, and brief, so he asked me for 5 tips.  Off the top of my head I gave him these…

Do not make a decision without considering how it will affect at least three other people – in other words, look for the unintended consequences. Everything you do in life effects others, keep that in mind and you can prevent a lot of heartache along the way. Frequently, when you take the time to see things from the perspective of others, you also wind up seeing that what seemed like a good thing for you really would not have worked out so well afterall.

Do not lie – this sounds simple and everyone says it, however, it’s not so much the effect on others I’m concerned about, it is the effect on you. When you lie you tell yourself that you are/were not good enough for the truth. If you do that enough, just like anything else, you will begin to believe it. Live a life worthy of the truth, and then speak honestly of it. PS it is also a bad thing to do to others.

When presented the choice between something you have done and something you haven’t, take the latter- Comfort can lead to complacency, while adventure tends to foster initiative. Further, people tend to travel in packs of interest, so if you delve into a new activity, you are likely to discover a whole new sub-culture, ripe with potential friends. I’m not saying you should never do things you know you enjoy, but make sure you carve out enough time for new things too.

Read, a lot – When you read, you do so many things that beyond simply enjoying a story. Your vocabulary is improved by reading words you do not know, or words that are used outside of the context in which you usually encounter them. Your deductive and reasoning skills are sharpened, not just in the act of anticipating where they plot will go, but in things as simple as determining what a word means in a particular context. You are also exposed to different perspectives on the world, which, if you are open to them, will help you tremendously in understanding and relating to the myriad of people you will meet throughout the course of your life.

Love – Love ridiculously. Make a fool out of yourself doing it. Express yourself in ways that your friends are sure to tease and taunt you about. Because if you do, someone will do the same for you… and you will never recover from it (in a good way, a really really good way)

Anything you’d like to add?

November 26, 2008

What a turkey…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 11:21 pm

I have long held the belief that celebrating something that is fundamentally bad, even in a good way, is objectionable. As such, Thanksgiving has never been high on my list of holidays. I recognize that the long standing tradition of a day of thanks pre-dates settler interaction with Native Americans, however, in this country that is what is has come to represent.

In this country we “celebrate” one culture teaching another how to live off lands they were not familiar with. We also ignore the fact that the latter culture subsequently brought about the near extermination of the first through disease, violence and relocation (many times to inhospitable land).

To this day nearly half of the Native American population lives on a reservation. The initial purpose of the reservations was to indoctrinate them in Christianity so that they could be given citizenship in the new nation. We are the Borg, my friends, and resistance is, indeed, futile.

The audacity of a group of people coming into someone else’s country, taking it by force, interning them for the purpose of religious indoctrination, and, when they didn’t convert, leaving them on those reservations is remarkable. The unbridled temerity of a society touting freedom and justice for all, and simultaneously celebrating a day of thanks in the wake of this reality I find to be far beyond distasteful.

And yet, every year, I exchange Happy Thanksgiving salutations with co-workers, family and friends. I then go off to some isolated location and wrestle with my own apparent hypocrisy. Why? I don’t have any problem telling people how I feel about racial or gender related issues, etc., so it’s certainly not fear of reprisal or admonishment. So, why?

I think the bottom line is this. No matter how much I loathe the general idea, when I boil the history out of it, I really like the spirit of the holiday. Not the feasting, that is wasteful and frankly a bit off-putting to me. Not the mandatory family get-togethers, I spend plenty of time with family all year; I do not need holidays to do so.

No, it is the idea of people appreciating each other freely that I like. I think I also fantasize that somehow it will become a habit (here is a little anecdote on my thoughts about the habit of doing good things http://puntiglio.com/blog/?p=85). I dare to dream that people will give thanks to, and for, each other on December 13th, and February 4th, and August 3rd, and every day in between.

I imagine a world where people value what they have over what they want. I know that makes me a bad capitalist (teaser, there is at least one if not many logs coming up on capitalism soon, they are festering in the back of my mind as I write this), but, bottom line… I don’t want or need “more”, I just want and need “enough”, and part of my “enough” is knowing that everyone else has “enough”.

Of course, now I have let my little dark secret out of the bag. Now you know that I do not really like Thanksgiving because of what it means historically, and what it says about a country I really want to align myself with. Now you know that I sit in hypocrisy when I savor my pumpkin pie, because while I am busy bemoaning a tyrannical past I am also reminiscing about a future that does not yet exist.

But it can…

What are you doing on December 13th?

November 20, 2008

More Farfar…

Filed under: A life worth living,Conversations,Farfar,Just life — sbj @ 6:16 am

Most of my interactions with Farfar were centered on either having fun or being productive. The bulk of what I learned from him was practical. How to drive a nail, how to shingle a roof, how to field dress a deer, and things of that nature were the domain of Farfar.

Council was not his strong suit. Actually that’s not fair to say, I’m not sure if it was or not, it simply was not a big part of our interactions. However, based on one afternoon’s experience while hunting, it has occurred to me that in not having more deep and meaningful conversations with Farfar, I may have missed out on more than I realize.

I had returned early from the morning hunt and Farfar and I were working on setting up camp while my father stomped around in the woods. Dad was frequently out longer than I was… probably a big part of the reason he was the (much) more prolific hunter. I enjoyed hunting, but I also enjoyed getting back to camp and spending time with Farfar (and, let’s be honest, enjoying the fruits of his labor over the camp fire!).

One afternoon we were sitting in front of the fire and out of the blue he asked me who I was dating. I told him no one at the moment, but there was someone I had my eye on. He asked what I was waiting for, and I (honestly/foolishly?) responded that I didn’t think she would respond positively to my overture.

His reply, like so many of the things he said to me over the years, was short and to the point (I’m paraphrasing here, but it is very close)…

Remember this: rejection only hurts for a day or two, regret… is not so forgiving.

That single sentence changed my life from that day forward. Not as enabling, reckless and all encompassing as “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission”, it created a wonderful synergy between the “strike while the iron is hot” confidence of youth, and the “t’is better to have loved and lost…” knowledge that can only be gained from experience.

I became a better, more confident man on the mountain that day… although, I’m sure there are a decent number of women (if you have known me long enough, you can insert a “suit” joke here) who wish I had stayed out in the woods with my dad and missed that conversation altogether!! ;)

When I think of all the things I mightn’t have done over the years, without this one morsel of experience, I find myself once again overwhelmed with appreciation for a man who so simply and efficiently conducted the business of his life.

Thank you Farfar, I love you, and miss you terribly already…

November 5, 2008

This doesn’t suck…

It’s not often that I use the same vid clip for two different posts in one week. It’s even less often that I use one from a kids movie. But, I’d like you to consider the second portion of this clip:

After ignorning the “smile and wave” portion, we are left with the “well… this sucks” portion. For those of you who have not seen Madagascar, let me provide the background for you. Those diminutive penguins have plotted since the beginning of the movie to get to Antarctica. To get there, they wound up hijacking the ocean liner pictured in the clip and navigating it to their destination.

Getting to Antarctica was their sole mission in life. They were focused, disciplined and determined, and in being so accomplished their lifelong dream… escaping from captivity in a New York zoo and reaching their homeland of Antarctica. However, what we see in the above clip is what happens when you set your sights on something without being prepared for what happens when you get there.

For our President-elect, I do not predict a “Madagascar moment,” however for the some of the people that voted for him, that campaigned for him, that donated money and time to him… I fear this may be their reality.

Last night Obama won the election, but those of us who elected him have not won anything yet. This election is not analogous to winning, or even getting to, the World Series. It is more similar to making the playoffs. It is from this point that the real work begins. We are now in the game, but are we ready to play?

Making real change will require maintaining, if not increasing, the energy and enthusiasm invested in the election process. Where we once spent our time advocating our candidate, we must now advocate the policies of our President. We must remain involved; engage our politicians and our fellow citizens. We must now, as never before, be the change we want to see in the world.

The good news is, if we do… it will not suck

October 29, 2008

I am the decisive element…

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life — sbj @ 5:01 am

I have come to the frightening conclusion
that I am the decisive element

It is my personal approach that creates the climate
it is my daily mood that makes the weather
I possess tremendous power
to make life miserable or joyous
I can be a tool of torture or
and instrument of inspiration,
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides
whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated
and a person humanized or de-humanized

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse
if we treat people as they ought to be
we help them become what they
are capable of becoming
-Goethe

October 28, 2008

A simple story… and a challenge…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 8:43 pm

In 1989, at the age of 44, my mother passed away on the island of Samui in Thailand. My grandmother (her mother) had passed roughly a year earlier. Obviously, this was a very emotional time in the lives of my entire family.

There is a theory, that has been around for a long time, that states that one of the truest measures of a person’s character is how the conduct themselves during times of intense trial and tribulation. We all learned quite a bit about each other over that tumultuous year. Some discoveries were better than others, but all in all I think we are grew as people.

I was recently asked to share a story from my life that illustrates, in some way, my value system; a story that I would be happy if not proud to have repeated. This challenge led me back to 1989.
After my mothers death, a tribute to her was printed in the local paper. I was dispatched to the newspaper stand to acquire a copy of the newspaper for everyone at the house (I cannot remember the number at this point, but it would have been in the neighborhood of 10 newspapers). When I arrived at the newspaper vending machine, of course, I was offered a choice. I could simply put my quarter in the machine and grab 10 papers and be on my way. Instead, I put my first quarter in the machine, grabbed 10 papers and shut the door… and then put in another quarter and opened and shut the door… and repeated this process 8 more times until all of the papers had been paid for.

This is a very simple story, and I’m sure most of the people I know would do the same thing. That’s part of the reason I like it. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is to whatever degree common. I do not want to paint myself as exceptional, what I want to illustrate is the simple choices we make on a day to day basis that form the fabric of our character. It is the simple, fundamental, choices that we make, when no one is looking, that make the difference.

Now… I would like to extend that challenge to you, my readers. Please share a story about yourself; a story that, in one way or another, represents your value system, a story that you would be happy, if not proud, to have repeated.

I think that you, as I did, will find it to be a reaffirming exercise, in addition to the benefit your example can set for others.

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