A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE 4-MINUTE MILE

Let me start by letting you all in on a few secrets. First, I do not, nor have I ever run a 4-minute mile. After eating all of the delicious meals Margie makes, I would be lucky to run a 40-minute mile. Also this post is not about running, it is about the power of belief.

You may have heard how powerful your beliefs are. You may have even heard they have a large influence in your life. You may have even scoffed at these two ideas. I am here to take this one step further and tell you that your beliefs can not only influence your life, but influence the entire world! Sound a little crazy and far-fetched?  Let us look at the history of the 4-minute mile and I will let you decide for yourself.

Humans have existed on this planet for a very long time in some form for fashion. Depending on your belief the length varies, but at the very least it has been many thousands of years. In that time, prior to the above date in 1954, no human had ever run a 4-minute mile. In fact, until that date, it was believed (there is that word again) that is was physically impossible for a human to run that fast. We were told our heart would explode, lungs could not handle it and that the physical make-up would not allow it. After much pizza and rum that still holds true for me, but I digress.

Enter Roger Bannister, a British athlete set to compete in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki where he finished fourth in the 1500 meters. This strengthened his resolve to break the 4-minute mile which he did at Oxford on May 6th, 1954, running 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He proved what many had said was impossible.

That is not the coolest part of the story. As we discussed the amount of people who ran that fast prior to that day in May were zero. Roger Bannister’s record, however, fell after only 46 days! Since then over 1000 people have raced at less than a 4-minute mile. How is this possible? Did human genetics suddenly change? Did the world suddenly get faster? How do we go from zero people doing it for thousands of years, to over a thousand in a little over 50? What changed?

The only thing that changed was the belief that it was possible. This was first done by Roger Bannister visualizing himself doing it so much that it became believable to him. After he accomplished it people everywhere now could believe it was possible for them as well. If this is true about an athletic accomplishment that has stood since the evolution of man, isn’t it true about your own life as well?  That business you want to start is not impossible. The weight loss you want to achieve, it is possible. You want to beat that addiction? It is possible! When others, or maybe even the person in the mirror, tell you something is impossible for you to do remember the story of the 4-minute mile.If you see me at the gym, forget all about a 4-minute mile.

EVOLVE, DO NOT INVOLVE

Here is a simple question I have learned to ask myself that has reduced my stress by a great margin. In addition to the stress reduction, it has kept me focused and helped me improve almost every aspect of my life. What is this amazing question? Will this help me evolve in any way? Now this can be financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically or any other way in which you might come out a better person.

Routinely I see and hear about people concerning themselves with things that do not matter in the slightest. They argue passionately (and sometimes even hold grudges) about things such as sports or politics. They get involved in gossip. They worry about celebrity activities. The ironic thing about all of this is it seldom affects the people they get so passionate about. The political landscape will not change because you and your coworker are no longer on speaking terms. Your team will not change its approach to the game because you and your best friend end up screaming at each other. In fact, they probably will never even know or care that the discussion happened. How will it affect you? It will stress you out, put a little wear and tear on your nervous system and probably a lot of your relationships.

Then there is the matter of gossip. Margie and I go to great lengths to keep this as far away as possible. Working in bars as a DJ, however, I have the unfortunate displeasure of seeing this more often than I care too. People who have no involvement in an issue throw their opinion and quite often themselves into others business. I cannot think of a time when this has resulted in anything but more of a mess.

Begin this week to ask yourself “Will this help me evolve as a person?” Maybe the book you are about to read will help you learn something, or maybe it will give you a laugh or some heartfelt entertainment. Will voicing your disagreement as to how your football team played verses how your friends played do anything but start a disagreement?

While thinking of this, be careful to know the difference between instant gratification and evolving. Sure screaming at your spouse when they make you mad may allow you to blow off some steam, but will it do anything to help your relationship evolve? Will giving a not so friendly gesture to the person who cut you off in traffic really do anything to help the situation?

This takes a little practice and we all have moments that we do things that have us asking ourselves, “Why did I do that?” If we make a practice of asking ourselves “Will this help me evolve?” more often, we can avoid asking ourselves the first question.

KEEP SWINGING…

“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up”

-Babe Ruth

When people ask me the secret to my ability to see the positive side of things and keep a bright outlook I offer them many of the secrets I employ. Most of which I have shared on this site. Still if there was one trait, one thing that has kept me on the right track despite outside circumstances it is this – I never give up – Everyday I see people who give up on a lot of things. Give up on a new idea they were trying. Give up on a new skill they are trying to learn. Give up on the dreams they were chasing. To the worst thing of all, giving up on life itself. No doubt there are days when we need to take a step back and catch our breath, or just recharge, but that is not giving up. Quite often most people stop digging their mines when they are mere inches from gold.

When we think of Babe Ruth what do we think of? Did you know ‘The Babe’ was a great pitcher as well? Most people associate Babe Ruth with hitting home runs and well they should. For quite some time he was the all-time leader in home runs. The home run is baseball’s equivalent to a personal victory in life. A home run does not always win the game, but sometimes it can. It always adds to the joy and confidence of the player hitting it, however. So how about you? How do you feel when you ‘hit a home run’ in life? Be it finishing the project at the office or scoring high on that term paper. Do you not find the things you do following you do with more confidence and enthusiasm? That is all well and good, but let’s face it in our game of life, we can’t all be home run hitters like the Babe Ruth, or can we? Let us look at the opposite side of the coin; striking out. When you strike out in life, you lose a job, you get in a fight with your spouse or luck just seems against you, How do you approach the things following that? If you are anything like most people your confidence is down, your enthusiasm may be lacking. Quite often approaching things with this state becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. By approaching life with a down-trodden attitude we often miss opportunities we would’ve seized with a more zealous approach. So what is the solution? How when we find ourselves in a ‘hitting slump’ can we still keep our attitude up? I think taking a new look at some facts may help us. Did you know every year he played Babe Ruth struck out more than he homered? It’s true. Look it up if you feel the need. Even in today’s game a .300 hitter is considered good. That means that they get a hit only 3 out of every 10 times they attempt. These are the guys getting paid top dollar. What is their secret? How come they do not give up after failing 70 percent of the time? The answer is simple and it is the secret I use to maintain a positive attitude and you can use to succeed in any avenue of life you are pursuing. The secret is this…They keep swinging. Quite often if we persist we demonstrate a faith in ourselves that gives us and everyone around us confidence. “Persistence is just another word for faith. If we didn’t have faith we wouldn’t persist” Said Earl Nightingale. So show some faith in yourself and persist, when you strike out at something in life and you feel like a failure, remember just to keep swinging!