Pick your battles

We all like to get our way. That’s pretty obvious, right? Who doesn’t want to get their way pretty much all the time?

Here’s the thing, every time we insist on getting our way, we create friction. Sometimes this friction is necessary, and the battle is worth fighting. But sometimes it’s just not worth it. Even when we’re right. Especially when the others in the relationship lack the capacity to gracefully accept their loss.

Some battles are too small and not worth the collateral damage. Keep your mind on the long game. Don’t piss off the whole world around you just so you can win every single battle. Even if you’re convinced you’re right.

Pick your battles wisely.

And it makes me happy

This morning I was standing in the kitchen making coffee, and I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing. When it snows here in the South, we kinda make a big deal out of it. You see, we don’t get snow that often, and when we do, it is kind of a big deal.

Have a seat and enjoy the snow.

Have a seat and enjoy the snow.


Since we don’t get snow that often, the states don’t have the capacity to keep the roads clear so that things will keep running as usual. It doesn’t make sense to invest millions in snow equipment if it only snows once every few years. That’s money the government would rather waste elsewhere.

But we do have some capability to “deal with” the snow. We have salt and sand. We have trucks with plows. Not enough to keep things running at 100%, but enough to clear the main roads within a few hours or so.

Then the rat race continues as if nothing happened.

And it makes me sad.

Every time it snows I hear people complain about it. They don’t like it when the roads are impassable. They don’t like it when they can’t get to work or they can’t get to the store.

Normally, the snow we get is here one day and gone the next. This happened a couple weeks ago and I bet I heard a dozen people say “That’s the kind of snow I like. Here one day and gone the next”.

What I really hear are people that choose commerce over family. The daily routine over special moments. Relieved that their routines weren’t disturbed for two days in a row.

In this modern life, we’re always on the go. Always working on some task. Always chasing money. We say it’s for our families, but we say all sorts of things we don’t really mean. When given the chance to spend a day or two with our families, we get antsy and hope for the snow to melt so we can go out into the world chasing things again. We’ve been conditioned to crave this “pursuit of happiness”.

We’ve lost our sense of wonder. We’ve lost our inner child.

And we’re losing our souls.

I guess it’s all about perspective. The people I know who live in places where it snows a lot view snow as a nuisance. You know the saying: Too much of a good thing can be bad. Well, I’m glad I don’t live where they do. They’re missing out on something special. When you live in the South where it really only snows once every couple of years, snow is something different.

It’s magical. For a brief moment, the daily grind stops. Virtually all of the human noise stops. The world is quiet. Families are together. The world is a different place.

And it makes me happy.

Solitude

Ever notice how you have the best thoughts in the shower? You know what I mean, those “aha!” moments where you finally figure something out. Maybe it’s the solution to a problem you haven’t been able to solve, or it’s a brilliant new business idea. There’s a reason you have some of your best thoughts in the shower. Solitude. You’re alone; with your thoughts, with God, with the spirits, whatever. You have time to hear that voice inside your head, to figure things out – even to figure out who you are. You’re not distracted by the television, or the radio, or the computer, or the smartphone, or other people. It’s just you and the voice. Alone. Free. For a few precious moments. These moments are invaluable, if you use them properly. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” 1

Solitude on a lake. Photo by anoldent.

That’s easy to say, right? But doing it is another matter. We live in a busy world that’s full of noise, with things to do and people to see. It can be hard to even come by spare moments, much less guard them well. As time goes on, this is becoming more and more of a reality, making it all the more important that you do guard them well.

People and things are constantly demanding your attention, and these attention seekers have a bigger effect than you may realize. Any time something has your attention, it essentially has control of your mind, for that moment. When you watch the news, your mind thinks about what they say. When you listen to the radio, whether it be music or talk shows, you think about what they say. When you have conversations with people, you think about what they say. Even reading this you’re thinking about what I’m saying. That’s all fairly obvious until you realize that if you don’t make time for solitude, your life is made up almost entirely of these moments where someone or something else is controlling your mind, drowning out that voice inside your head.

Solitude on the beach. Photo by Moyan Brenn.

The voice inside your head is a wise one. It knows things. Listening to it and developing a relationship with it (or with God or the spirits or whatever you believe) makes both it and you stronger. The thing is, it’s hard to hear that voice and to develop that relationship when everything is constantly demanding your attention. You must make time for solitude.

Some of the greatest and most prominent figures of all time – Buddha, Beethoven, Einstein, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Newton, Thoreau – made time for solitude to deal with the demands of daily life. They had crucial revelations during their alone time. They knew the value of solitude and so should you.

You must recognize the value of these spare moments and stop treating them like a problem that needs to be solved by some gadget that drowns out that voice. But you can’t take it lightly and only make time once a week or once a month. As you must spend plenty of time with your family and friends to develop a solid relationship, you must spend plenty of time with yourself and that voice to really develop the relationship.

Don’t let our culture teach you to throw out these uncut diamonds. Hold onto them. Make time for them. Polish them. Listen to that voice inside your head. Develop that relationship. The more attention you give it, the more you polish and improve it, and the more valuable it becomes to you and to the people and the world around you.

We’re all different and I can’t tell you how life changing it will be for you. You have to figure that out on your own. I can only tell you that it has been life changing for me and for everyone I know who has taken the time to do the same.

Guard well your spare moments. You need them. You deserve them.

Now go take a shower.

Footnotes

1. This quote has been heavily attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I haven’t been able to find it in any of his writings. Searching the internet to find when and where he said or wrote this hasn’t been fruitful, as this quote is so widely used all I’ve been able to find are regurgitations of the quote and not its origin. Any insight into when and where he said this, if indeed he did, would be greatly appreciated.

Hear me. Please?

Daddy went to work. Mama went to work. My brother and I went to daycare, and then on to school, to grow up with strangers, only spending time with our family in the remnants of the days.

All of us apart all day long. Spending our days – our lives – apart, only to reunite at the end of the day when we are tired and grumpy from running the rat race.

Family is relegated to the margins, as if being with strangers is more important. Nothing is more important than family, they say. People say all sorts of things they don’t mean.

It’s no wonder we cry to be heard. Facebook this. Twitter that. Look where I am. Look what I bought. Look at me.

Hear me. Please?

Tweeting your weight is not the future

If this is the future, shoot me now.

I don’t like frictionless sharing. It adds a ton of noise, little or no value, and dilutes existing value. It creates problems and solves nothing.

We need more thoughtful and purposeful sharing, not mindless automated sharing. Quality over quantity. Help prevent this mindless noise and abstain from automated sharing.

Besides, what’s social about mindless automation?

Turn off your TV

Television is one of the biggest addictions in our culture. Most people catch at least a few minutes of TV every day, and according to studies, many people watch it for several hours every day. It seems that most of us can’t do without TV.

There are plenty of advertisements on TV that warn us of the dangers of drug addiction, sex addition, and other forms of addictions. There are even shows based on addiction. So why don’t see anything about television addiction? If addiction is bad, then it stands to reason that addiction to TV is bad, too. Right?

We have TVs in the den, the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, and in restaurants and doctors’ offices. TVs are everywhere. We have to actually make effort to get away from them.

If you live to be 80 years old, you’ll live 960 months. That’s a lot of months. Think about it. 960. Wow! Can you go just one month without TV?

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I used to be hooked on TV, but now I don’t even own one. I gave it away years ago.

Without the comfort and distraction of TV, what will happen in your brain? In your marriage? In the lives of your children?

If you turn off the TV for just one month, and you decide to turn it back on afterwards, you will see it in a completely different way. It will look very different to you.

Give it a shot. You will come out of this experiment a different person. I dare say a better person.

Challenge yourself. Turn off your TV.