Okay, I am taking this class online from Harvard, teaching you how to change, or, rather, why you probably cannot. I have written about it before, but the other day something remarkable happened.
I called my flight instructor to set up my biennial flight review, and to be checked out for the Club airplanes. The BFR isn’t a test, it is a refresher, to see how “sloppy”, you may have gotten with procedures, or skills. I haven’t flown in seven years. As I was chatting with him on the phone, I asked how he would structure the training? Steep turns, stalls, take offs and landings, slow flight…he interrupted me:
“Kevin, you are a private pilot. Those are student lessons. We simply see how you fly now, refresh some skills, bring you back up to date, and when you are safe – I simply endorse your logbook. Then, you get to go learn again the joy of being in the air. ”
Oh, my gosh. I had forgotten that I EARNED my license. Nobody gave it to me. I have more than 680 takeoffs – and the same number of Landings! Those two should always match.lol I have more than 500 hours as pilot in command, and have flown from the East Coast to North Dakota, Natchez Mississippi, down to Florida, all from Charlotte, NC. I know how to plan a flight, fly cross country with just a map, compass, and dead reckoning – pilotage. Now with the new glass cockpits, it is even safer, smarter, and easier to fly well- at least from the planning, information and up to date weather angles. I am a Private Pilot.
With that, my whole attitude changed from one of timidity. From a place of fear, and needing validation, to one of knowing I can, with effort, become competent again. In fact, I realized that even though I am average in so many ways, and even below average in some- in some things, I have skills. I have knowledge. I have experience. I am special, in my own way. As we all are. I focused on my weaknesses, because that is what I was taught, and that is what most people will talk to you about, your (in their minds) weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures. What I realized is most folks want you to change, not for your benefit, but theirs. Most folks want you to be like them. Don’t be. Be you. Listen to folks who have walked their talk, been there , done that, got the T-shirt; you can learn a lot from them. If someone who has never driven outside their state, tells you not to drive cross country, because it is dangerous…smile, nod, listen politely- but don’t act on what they say. Why? Because they do not know what they are talking about. Not wanting you to head out into the unknown, is their fear. Not yours. Dream big, it is a huge world out there. Find the part of you that can hear:
“What? You are a private pilot! Go fly!”
re: Maybe you are special after all…. “You are a Privat Pilot.” With those words, a whole lot of crap fell away…
Okay, I am taking this class online from Harvard, teaching you how to change, or, rather, why you probably cannot. I have written about it before, but the other day something remarkable happened.
Some changes to come about soon. First, I am moving as we continue the process of downsizing to live well within our means. We have found a wonderful place, with a great landlord. We have our outgo down to just rent, utilities, gas and groceries. Not quite debt free, but getting very close. On the fitness side, I am doing great. More than six hundred minutes ( recommended dose is 150 minutes a week) of biking, walking, running, and generally moving about. More than four times the weekly dose of exercise. Exercise is Medicine, and that is a shift that folks my age need to make. Just walking is more potent than most medicines to change so many things about your health. Get out and move!
Diet wise, well, ever since the Ape/Evo diet, I have become a fan of making my snack plate every other day. A dinner plate filled with five vegetables to snack on, and occasionally some berries. A hand full of nuts are always available too. I haven’t added sugar to anything yet this year, and am working on the next step…eliminating white breads, and pasta, and chocolate milk. Nutrition is really a tricky subject, and there is much bogus pseudoscience out there about dieting, and what to eat. You, as an individual, must experiment with your own body, and find what works for you. It is like Caffeine – for most people, just a little provides a lot of jittery energy- but, for me, nada. I can drink tea (which has more caffeine than coffee) and go right to sleep. LOL Just try things that work for you…and continue to work for you. Bouncing back and forth by twenty pounds every six months, is not healthy. Slow and steady, beats fast and dramatic.
Stress. I haven’t found many studies – or at least studies that I trust, about the effects of worrying over how, when, or what you are eating. I don’t use the word “Bad,” about food. I am not bad if I eat a donut. I just ate something that isn’t as healthy as say, a tomato. LOL You are not bad for eating, although you can eat things that are bad for you! I do. The stress from trying to be perfect, or feeling bad because you snacked on a cookie, I feel can be more dangerous than the cookie was! If you have to many treats, figure it out, and have fewer treats. But don’t beat yourself up because you ate a treat.
Money. Hmm…that one I really have to work on. I learned a lot as we downsized. Like a lot of folks, even as simply as we live, we had all kinds of stuff we didn’t need.Yet, with all my smarts, my energy, and my effort, I still find myself without the “extra money”for the things I really want. I have to really figure out how I feel about money. I have made money, but it has never driven me, and I am not sure why I feel “extra money” would change me. I am working on that a bit too.
Okay, so Phase I of retirement has been an interesting combination of stress, freedom, change, and lifestyle adaptations. What will Phase II bring? Stay tuned.
So what did I learn this last year?
1) It was time to retire…so, I did! LOL
2) Eat your fruits, and juice your vegetables. Fruit juice is bad for you, pure juice, that is. The Harvard Study shows that eating whole fruits is better for you, especially if you are a type II diabetic. Juicing vegetables is okay. But, eat your fruit!
3) For over all health, and brain strength; absolutely nothing beats walking fast enough where you can talk to a companion, but you couldn’t sing if you tried. It is cumulative for Health Benefits (not training benefits) so, if you can only manage a minute or two- then do the minute or two, several times a day. But walk, and briskly.
4) Learning is fun.
5 I learned that the word “Boast”, in Ancient Greece, meant: To tell the Truth, strongly. It was an honest word. A word that meant you knew the truth, you lived the truth, and you could tell the truth. We turned it into a negative word in our modern world. Yet, isn’t it funny, we never came up with a replacement word that means: To Tell The Truth Strongly.
6) I learned that there are more than a trillion ionic reactions in a single micrometer of Neuronal Cells. If all the ions of one species gathered on the same side, the energy released would be the equivalent of several thousand lightening bolts. You would vaporize and turn into a blinding brilliant glowing plasma. Be glad you have counter ions. LOL (Thanks Doc David and Doc Wan for those : “back of the envelope equations.”
7) I learned that my daughter is a great and wonderful Mother.
8) I learned that my Kathy, is a great and wonderful Grandmother.
9) I learned that my younger daughter, is a great and wonderful Aunt.
10) And, yes, I learned that my Son-in-Law , is a great and wonderful father.
11) I learned that I am about the right age to be a Grandfather. LOL
12) I learned that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but, if you hang onto not forgetting to much, you really haven’t forgiven.
13) I learned from the actions of one Lady on board the ship, how many lives are affected by one person, and maybe, a person you don’t even know, and never met. Every single person – counts.
14) I learned that work, or a job, for some people, brings their mind back into full gear, and gives them a reason to wake up in the morning. Work, it turns out, isn’t all bad.
15) I learned how badly TV is killing culture, communication, and conversation. Especially watching News. Turn it off, except for entertainment. ‘Nuff said.
16) I learned that no matter how old you are, it is scary to make new friends, or lose an old one.
17) It always hurts to break up with someone you loved, or liked, not matter if you are six years old, or seventy. Breaking up, as the song goes: “…is so very hard to do.”
18) Love can, and often does, last a lifetime. Even Romantic Love! LOL
19) I learned that part of Oceania ( The Island Kingdom of Kiribati) is underwater, and almost half the population is looking for a place to live.
20) I learned that the three fastest and most powerful computers in the world are in: China, Japan, and The United States. And only one of those countries has dedicated it to spying on its population- and that one is us.
21) I learned that no matter how hard core a business, a government, or a science is- it isn’t about logic, it is about people. Relationships, surprisingly enough, are the real backbone of any human activity.
22) Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince, and supper like a pauper.
23) Make time for yourself.
24) Get your sleep.
And that is what I have learned this year. See you next Year. Kevin at home
These are the things I learned from my Mom and Dad, and other adults, all from a generation that knew some things. I do some of them, others, well, I slipped a bit. Here you go, wisdom from the Greatest Generation:
1) Eat a little bit of a lot of things.
2) Eat, breathe, and move- everyday.
4) Get your rest.
5) Take a day off.
6) Learn to fill your needs, not your wants.
7) If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.
8) Please, Thank You, Good Morning (Afternoon, or Night), How are you? Please. I am sorry. You are welcome. Yes Ma’am. Yes Sir. May I help you. These are the words that act as social grease…use them well.
9) If you shook hands on it, the deal is done.
10) If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
11) Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
12) You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.
13) Don’t gossip, or speak ill of the dead.
14) If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.
15) Never buy on credit. (Oh, had I just remembered this one ! Insert sob here.)
16) Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and supper like a pauper.
18) Never argue in public. Never swear at someone you love. Don’t yell at children.
19) Act married all the time (if you are married).
20) Find someone, or some thing, that you love. You will never be lonely.
That’s it. Just a few things I was raised with, but did not heed, or at least not all the time.
I sent this onto as many people as I could. I have watched it three times in a row. If you were ever bullied, sad, or just couldn’t figure out where you belonged, this young poet hits it. I cried openly, and laughed, for like a lot of folks who made it- he has a sense of humor. I think, some of you will see yourself, I did.
His questions as a child…well, they are some of the ones that are bothering me now. It is only ten minutes long…and lasts a lifetime. Kevin
I wonder, where, oh where, did we get the idea that the way we live now, is the way we have to live forever, and ever more? Especially when we look around and can see that we don’t even use the same tools we did before. When is the last time you had to walk to a phone? And dial? Phones aren’t fixed to a wall anymore, they are in your pocket, the same pocket with a smart phone, holds all the information in all the libraries in the world.
How many people you stay in constant contact with, live with you? Two? Four? Maybe seven, if you are lucky. How many are on your contact list? Your FACEBOOK page? Your Twitter account? Your social circle is giant sized compared to just 20 years ago. How many phone numbers have you memorized? Any?
How many checks have you written this month? Where and when do you watch movies? How many team sports do you play? Online or in real life? How much debt are you in? It might surprise you to know, that in 1959 – no one I knew was in debt. There were no credit cards- and if you didn’t have cash, you didn’t buy anything.
I knew exactly one kid, who came from a divorced home. One. I only knew two families who had less than five kids. Blacks could not use rest areas on Highways, and Gays weren’t even mentioned. Today, African Americans, Latinos, and Gays, are just Americans for most folks- and have risen to power in every field of endeavor. Women, who numbered less than a few percent of the work force, and college students of the time – now outnumber men in sheer numbers of college students, and in most business arenas. Oh, to be sure, there is a long way to go for any “minority” group, but progress had definitely been made.
On an Individual level, we are living longer, healthier, and smarter, than ever before. So, why this line of thought we feed ourselves that we can’t change? That we are stuck? That we have done what we could with our lives. NO YOU HAVEN’T. You just bought into someone else’s dream killing belief system. It is your life. It has always been your life. You may have made commitments, and feel you have a duty to uphold- and maybe you do. Yet, if you think you can’t change them – you are wrong. It isn’t easy to change, and it sure isn’t easy on the folks around you- but you can become who you want to be.
You can share the journey, or make your own. You can give up your choices, which is a choice in and of itself. Change , as the saying goes – is inevitable – growth is optional. Take the options! Can’t move to a warmer climate because what would your relatives do without you? Well, move to the warmer place- they will visit! Especially in winter. Want to play sports but your partner doesn’t want to? Play, and make sure they have a nice seat to watch. LOL You do have to compromise some things to get along, but no where, no way, no when, do you have to compromise yourself.
When you die, only you go. Nobody else can die for you. So why not LIVE for you? No one else can live for you either. Wishes, can become dreams, which can become goals, which can become reality. Of course, there are no guarantees, so, guess what? A dream can become a Nightmare- and a real one. Risk, is part of life, and managed risk is still risky. On the other hand, without risk, you shall never know what you might be, do, or meet. Grow, or stop. Or , if you are truly lucky, you have found your bliss and are contented- for now. Move a pebble, and the stone falls…Life, is not a rock.
Life isn’t fair.
Life isn’t wrong, or right, either. In fact, life just is.
You are the one supplying the meaning, or lack thereof- in your life.
Life, is worth living, and living well; for no other reason than you are alive. But how?
Here are some simple things I have figured out ; they may, or may not apply to you, and your situation. They will apply sometime or another in your life- in some way, or another. Ready?
1) Society will tell you who you are, or who you should be.
Do not listen.
2) Your parents and family will tell you who you should be, or who you are.
Do not listen (unless you know they are right!).
3) Your Church, or Faith, or Belief will tell you who you are, or who you should be.
Do not listen.
What? I know you are thinking: “Well then who do I listen to?”
Good question. I will offer three answers:
1) Listen to people who have done what you want to do, and either succeeded or failed at it. Never listen to those who haven’t done either. It is scary to try, and most folks won’t. So listen to experience, adapt what you can from their experiences, and then—- go do it your way!
2) Listen to “Experts”, but follow your own feelings. What do I mean? Okay, lets use Doctors for an example. In general, Doctors know bodies better than you do, especially diseased ones – because that is what they are trained to look for, respond to, and administer too. Ill health.
You, on the other hand, are not a number, you are you. I read a book by a guy who was almost killed in a car wreck- his recovery took more than Ten Years, and dozens of operations. Four different surgeons told him his pains in his replaced hips, and his skull, were psychosomatic. A fifth surgeon opened him up, and closed him right up- thinking the melting bone – was puss. It wasn’t.
Finally, a Sixth Doctor, who knew him from his original surgeries, said: ” You are not a complainer. You are not a wimp either. If you say something is bothering you- lets take a look. ”
It turns out, his body was growing way to much extra bone on the metal skull plate, and on both the replaced hips. No one had seen a case like his, because no one had ever lived with as many operations as he had. Doctors now know more about what happens in certain long term cases, and he is now relatively pain free. The Experts, were wrong- except for the one who actually listened to the patient. (In defense of Doctors – it does work both ways!)
3) Listen to you. Find your Bliss -as Old Joseph Campbell would say. Play with life, until you find meaning, or purpose, or interest. You are not here to live your parents life over, without their mistakes. You are not here to toe the line for a specific culture, or government, or society. You are not here to surrender your dreams to anyone. You are here to live your life.
It is almost always easier to fit in, than to find what fits. It is easy to find folks who tell you what you should weigh, what you should eat, what you should do with your life; and most of them won’t have followed their own advice. Saying things is easy, doing things, can be quite difficult.
Educate yourself, either formally, or informally, knowledge is power. It is also a way to learn from the journey’s of others. Don’t mistake Degrees- for knowledge, or success, although they can be both, or useful for both. Most successful business men, aren’t degreed. But, they are tremendously knowledgable about their particular niche.
As one famous Billionaire once said:
“It isn’t about smarts. I have more than a thousand Ph.D’s in my company, and they all work for me. I don’t have a degree. I do know what people want: simple, elegant, well designed, products that work.”
Find the life design that works for you. Make a plan, be flexible, and experiment until you find your path- then grow your passion to Master that path. Life won’t be fair, it will be rewarding!
Okay, granted, most folks don’t watch a baseball documentary about a weird pitch (the knuckleball) and find wisdom galore. But, we aren’t most folks, we are us!
What do I mean about “Wisdom Galore?”
1) The pitch is not thrown with the knuckles. It is thrown by pressing the fingernails into the seam and taking off all spin on the ball.
a) The pitch was named by people who couldn’t throw it.
b) No one can hit it, because it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do- spin.
c) Of the eight pitchers who mastered the knuckleball, three are in the Hall of Fame- and are considered : Freaks.
2) In the Documentary, the two current knuckleball throwers, had almost given up, many, many, many times. They didn’t. As a result, they had careers nearly twice as long as the average Big League Pitcher; pitching well into their forties.
a) They never gave up. Ever.
b) They paid their dues, many times. At the end, they were rewarded.
c) They stopped listening to the naysayers. The knew how fickle fans could be. They started to understand history, and they reached out for the guys who came before them.
3) The current guys, went back and found the “old guys’. The sought their advice, and asked for technique tips.
Lessons? Oh, wow!
a) They went to the well of the wisdom of experience. That alone is amazing. But they also listened to what the “old guys” had to say, and that is downright stunning. Who does that anymore? They did. And it helped.
Here are a few of the profound exchanges between the young guys and the old guys:
YG: I have this video of my last game. I lost. Here is me pitching to the batter. What did I do wrong?
OG: Oh, look. You are throwing to hard! Knuckelballs need to be down in the 45 to 50 mile an hour range.
YG: I see. Man, it is hard to hold back, when you have been trained your whole life to give it all you have. (Profound statement #1)
OG: Yes, I know. (smiles), What you have to do, is this: let your arm go soft. Think of it as a noodle, or a piece of rubber, or a half filled water balloon. You can’t throw hard, with a soft arm.
YG: (His face lights up) I can do that! I can use that.
YG: What do I do when I am throwing lousy pitches?
OG: That happens. You have to take the bad with the good. Sometimes, the outcome is unpredictable. (Profound statement #2) Because the outcome is unpredictable, the next pitch is unknown, and that is great!
OG: Yes. Because the next pitch is totally unconnected to the last pitch, except in your mind. So, when you throw the next pitch- just think in your head: “This next pitch is going to be magical. It is going to be the best pitch I ever threw.”
Later, they young guy is facing the last out, if he gets the batter out, they go to the World Series, for the first time in 100 years. He starts to wind up, and he hears a voice over his shoulder whisper: “This is the best pitch you are ever going to throw. It is magical.”
He gets the guy out, they move into the World Series- and win.
Okay, now – Billionaires. There is a News story on at the gate I am waiting for my airplane at. I can’t get away, to close to boarding time. So, I watch. It is about the new Forbes ranking of the Wealthiest people in the world. What catches my minds eye is not the names, but this salient fact:
In 2012 there were like 749 Billionaires in the world. In 2013, there were more than 1100!
Think about that, in a world suffering global downturns in almost every financial market- the number of billionaires almost doubled. Four hundred, or more, stepped up into the ranks of billionaires. Even more stunning, the number of millionaires increases every minute!
Supposedly, in the USA, a new millionaire is minted every 63 minutes. I told my fellow passengers:
“We are from the USA, and we all have an hour. I wonder who will be next?”
They didn’t get it, but, at least I tried.
The point I am making here is twofold: Everyone who became wealthy, did it in one lifetime. One. Some started with nothing, some with a bit of cash, and a few started with family fortunes. Still, they made it happen in a single lifetime. The second point is this: when the News was filled with gloom and despair, some folks saw opportunity. Perhaps, they are the knuckleballers of finance?
Perhaps most of us come from a place of lack, of not enough, or making ends meet; and we can’t imagine (and therefore can’t achieve) having more than enough. We write success off to: luck, chance, or serendipity. Why I am sure that luck plays a role, it isn’t the major role!
If all you can imagine is either breaking even , or going under- then those are the outcomes that will present themselves. Let me tell you this story about a guy I met from Finland:
“I am an architect. I build sustainable buildings. Ones that have every modern convenience: air conditioning, heat, fresh water (and plenty of it), good healthy food, and high tech gadgets. Yet, I build these building to leave almost no footprint. 100% self sustaining. Because I don’t believe that man has to go without, to be conscious of the planet, or the environment.
In a building with more than a thousand people in it, you have to cool the building! Even in winter. So, how do you keep the heat in the building when it is empty? We figured out ways to do this. To save water, to grow plants with their roots bathed in nutrient sprays. To use plants to extract all the unhealthy things in waste water- and then use those plants to feed plants we can eat.
We can still be super civilized, without damaging the planet, the environment, and without costing us to be constantly concerned with money. ”
Now, how often has his story been told? He sees a future of plenty, of greater yields, of smarter uses of resources. He didn’t drop out of society, and hide from the worlds problems; he figured out ways to make it a better place to live. Another knuckleballer.
And then this final story from a 95 year old gold medalist in the Senior Olympic Games. He started swimming at age 77, because, as he says: “I was sedentary, and sure didn’t want to run!” By his mid 80′s , he was ranked in the top ten for his age group. In his 90′s he got the silver medal three times- and then, won gold.
He finally beat the guy he always came in second too. I asked him how he did that:
“It was easy. I just outlived him. ”
And that is profound statement number three.
What’s an “F” ? It is a letter. It is a grade. It isn’t you. It isn’t even human. The head of the Biology Department – at Harvard- never took a math class. Why? He didn’t like math. Yet, he got a Ph.D in Biology. Why? He liked biology. He still does. He took an Algebra class , after teaching for more than 20 years. You don’t need Math to do good science, you do have to be curious, intuitive, and not afraid to fail.
I once had a friend (since passed on) who owned a small steel mill. He never went to college. Yet, he employed more than two dozen Ph.D’s in Materials Science, Physics, and Chemistry. He used to joke that he had the most educated work force of any business with only a 100 workers- and they all worked for a “C” student. LOL
What successful people have in common is just three simple things:
1) They have passion for what they do.
2) They do the work- whether it is mental, physical, sales, or business. (or a personal relationship-like marriage)
3) They can handle “failure” as a setback, part of the process of learning. Failure isn’t an event- or the end. For many of us, failure is the reason we moved on to grow stronger.
When you were learning to walk, did you fall onto your bum, stop, and sit there- immobile: never willing to use your legs again, because you failed to walk? Of course not. You just got your little butt up off the floor, and tried again. Name anyone of any merit, and they got up off of their butt, and tried again.
One of the advantages of us old farts, is we have lived this. We know an “F” is not the end of the world. If your GPA, isn’t to the left of the decimal- we know you are working outside your area of interest. (Or someone else is either paying for your college, or pressured you to be there).
Take me for example. I am taking a Class at Harvard (online) called: CS50X. It is an introductory class in Computer Science and basic programming. I started late, but, am not trying to play catch up- yet. Why? I know it is difficult stuff for me. I know if I take my time on these first few weeks- my foundation will be stronger, and I can make up lost time later . Without that solid beginning, my whole semester will be shaky.
If , however, I learn the basics, and don’t end up finishing all 12 weeks- I may get an “F” in the class, but I will know more than I ever did about computers and programming. It doesn’t scare me to not be as smart as the other folks who finished the 12 weeks, in 3!
It won’t bother me if I fail. I will take it again. I don’t want the grade, I want the knowledge. To be Honest, I really want the T-shirt! I won’t wear it , unless I earn it. Someday, you will see me wearing a CS50 Harvard T-shirt.
Find your passion, do the work, embrace failure = success.
That is the formula us old farts use.