The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Category: Philosophy Page 3 of 4

Of rose’s and time……

How often do we and should we just take a moment to sit and listen to world around us. Every so often it nice to just sit and be and listen to the world. The sounds of the wind rustling through the tree’s, the sounds of birds communicating with each or calling out to friends in different places. Children playing and laughing without a care in the world, theironly concern what they are doing at that moment. No thoughts of what tomorrow will bring, or for that matter the next hour or afternoon. The just live in the moment. Living in the moment is something we should learn to embrace. Just be, enjoy, not worry about how well things are going at the moment, just enjoy the moment for what it is. The times when you can do that, are the times that will remain with you as good memories or funny memories at least, when things don’t go as well as we sometimes hoped they would. How often have we used the phrase, its funny now, when describing some event that at the time, had us pitching fits, or angry or rushed for time. Why wasn’t it funny then, because we wouldn’t let our minds just be in the moment. We are too worried about time or what is going to happen next.

Many years ago, while participating in a writing experiment that at the time I originally thought was silly, I experienced one of those moments, when the words just seemed to flow from somewhere, that I was not aware of. I can remember bits and pieces of what I wrote but not the whole thing. If memory serves me right, it was about time and the passage of it, and much like the earlier paragraph was focused just on the moment. Time is precious and meant to be enjoyed, because we can never have that moment back again. What we choose to do with moment however is important, not the fact the moment is gone, never to reclaimed again. We want to be able to relive those moments and laugh about them or remember them fondly, not as missed opportunities or wastes of our time.
Enjoy what you doing at the moment and do worry about it going right or wrong, just be in the moment. It is those times that will give you peace and happy thoughts when there are moments that aren’t going so well. You can look back on them, and get that feeling you have when you are with someone, that knows you well enough, that you don’t feel the need to filter thought or feelings. Someone who when you are with them the silence is comfortable, pleasing and calming, when just being around that person makes you at ease. Often times, just being with them, provides a calming influence, you don’t even need to be in the same room with them, you can be on the phone, doing completely different things and it is just a comfort knowing they are there. And often when you are not with that person, you still get the sense that they need you to call them, to provide that comforting influence, or call you and do the same. Cherish those moments so when you need them, you can recall them for the times when you can’t talk to or be near that person, and you will find that they are just as comforting as when you are near.

Racism or Social Imprinting?

Today (5 July 2008) I saw something that made me decide to write this piece. I saw a Black man walking two pit bulls. He was wearing a pair of jeans that were low in the back so that you could see the underwear and a white t-shirt. What struck me about this sight is that I felt myself immediately think of this person as a “gang-banger” type who probably kept the dogs for fighting.

The problem is that I as I got closer to this person, I realized that I knew him and there is no way that he would do that with his dogs. Add to this that he is the furthest thing from a “gang-banger” that I know a person to be.

So it makes me wonder, is what I experienced actually true racism, even in a small form, or is it a case of social imprinting, where we see something and based on news, past experiences or stereotyping, we assume something that is not always the case.

Using the black person I spoke about at the start of this as an example, how many people that saw exactly the same thing I did, would think the same way?  Granted, I am sure not all would, but I would wager that a majority of people would. I would even go so far as to say that it would not only be Caucasians that would think this way, I think that you would see similar reactions in various other races as well, including other Black folks.

Who’s fault is it for people thinking this was? Is it the fault of the person who is looked at and assumed to be what he or she is, in fact, not simply because of how they look or choose to dress? Is it the fault of me, or anyone else, for being so quick to judge a person because of certain things they do that fit in with a social group? Where DOES fault lie?

Here is my take on the answer and I am betting that many of you will not like it. The fault lies with us all and it is all about understanding and education. When I looked at that person today, for that briefest of moments, I did not see a fellow human who is almost 100% anatomically similar to me, I did not see human whose only difference from me was the color of his skin. For that moment I saw what he media wanted me to see based on the minority of the black people that appear on various shows in the negative light.

The fact that I reacted the way I did shows a certain level of failure on my part to, in that one moment, not differentiate fiction from fact and assume that because this guy was dressed the way he was and had pit bulls, I made the cardinal sin of thinking that he was a gang-banger.  This does bother me, because anyone who REALLY knows me, knows that this is not who I am.

The moral to my little rant here?  Be aware.  Be very mindful of your thoughts and actions.  Our thoughts and ideas about how we see things lead to actions, either obvious or hidden.  This is what creates hate in the world.  There is already enough of that, we do not need more.

Who am I?

Who am I?

This is not a hard question to ask, but a very hard question to answer. I do not care how self confident you are, if you look at the many ways to interpret the question, then you cannot come up with a “pat” answer to it that easily.

WHO am I?

Am I the sum of my own efforts and dreams, or am I the creation of the expectations that others have placed upon me, thus shaping who I have become? Is the person that I have become based on the people that I have met in my life or the people that my friends and family expect me to be because of their needs and desires? Likewise, have I, over the years, manipulated who I am, in order to mold to the types of person that my friends and family needed me to be, thus becoming a better friend to them through empathy, of sorts?

Is it important or healthy for a person to change themselves to be a better friend, love or companion to another person, when it is obvious that this will sometimes result in the loss of some individuality? or is it more important to be yourself, for yourself, regardless of the affect on those around you? This is not to say that you be yourself sheerly for the the affect of alienating others, but being your own person and letting others accept you that way, regardless of how it affects the closeness of the relationship.

When I think of who I am, I cannot do so without thinking about how much of who I am is based on the people I have met over the years, and both the positive and negative affects that they have had upon me in that time. It is hard, also, to not think of the struggles and successes that I have had in my life that have, also, lead to my being right here, right now, in this life.

Obviously some of this is obvious. If you look at your youth, you can see that you were shaped, in large part, by your parents and other close family. As you grew older, the other adults that you met and your teachers, added to the person you would one day become. As you grew, both mentally and physically, you saw things in those people that you decided you liked, or disliked, and added them to your own personality, creating a mulligan stew personality, of sorts. This, in turn and over time, lead to who you became as an adult. Like a good stew, it takes time for all the pieces to merge and become that one thing that is you.

I encourage you to try a little mental exercise. Look at your talents, traits, opinions and anything else about yourself, and follow it back. See if you can identify why you feel the way you do about something, and where you might have gotten that opinion.

It really is an interesting exercise in and of itself, because sometimes you may not realize how you came to some of your thoughts on certain things.

As I see it… We ARE all individuals. But we would not be who we are without the interaction and guidance of others. Whether we realize it at the time or not, every person that we meet or interact with, provides that little nudge that eventually leads us to who we are now and it does not stop there. We are constantly changing and growing. You may not have the same opinions and ideas ten years from now that you do today, this is just the way things work.

Who am I?

I am that which I have become, through the guidance of the Friends, Family, enemies, loved ones and strangers that have made up my life. Through my interaction with them, I have become the best person that I can be, and I am not done yet. This is a process I will go through until the day I take my final rest.

Where does the sky end?

When we are children, we ask some interesting questions of our parents. I am not certain why, but over this last weekend I remembered one that I asked my father. This was more years ago than I care to mention, but I must have been about six or so. I remember looking out the window and then asking him, “Dad… where does the sky end?”

I cannot recall what prompted the question or where I came up with the concept, though I suspect that it may have something to do with all the reports in the news at the time of the Apollo and Skylab missions. I always did seem to have my head in the stars as I child.

The question itself though, thinking about it now that I am older, and somewhat wiser, is one that could be both a philosophical and astronomical question, but for now, I would like to look beyond the science of the question and look at the meaning that I saw as a child.

We all know that the “sky”, or what we perceive as the sky is nothing more than the affect of the sun’s light being defused by the various components of the atmosphere… oxygen, nitrogen, argon, etc… But when you are a kid, you do not know or care about all that. The sky is something that you see as full of adventure, a place where planes fly to far off lands or battle against other planes, where rockets stab the heavens to go even farther into the sky (for me, as a kid, the sky stopped somewhere past the stars.)

It may sound a little “Norman Rockwellian” but I can recall watching the clouds in the sky and thinking of the shapes that the clouds made. Sometimes animals, sometimes structures, there were even a few times I can recall seeing faces in the clouds thinking that God was drawing pictures for everyone to see. Then there were the nights… Not so much in Taft, the town where I spent part of my childhood, but in Bakersfield, there was a large field behind the complex I lived in. We all called it the “Greenfield”, simply because it was green, and there where no houses or anything there. In reality, it was the corridor for the high voltage towers that fed part of Bakersfield and then went on south to another community. This was where most of my adventures took place until I was about fifteen years old.

I would go out and lay on the grass at night or early evening, and just watch the night sky for hours, sometimes not getting back in until late. This was at the time it was safe to do things like that for a person of my age and not have to worry about anything bad happening. The sky was still pretty clear in the area I lived, back then, and light pollution was still quite low. I would see so far that I started wondering what all was out there, so, like most kids, you start imagining. Because of my mother, I had no illusions about what was in the sky. I understood at a very early age what stars were, and how far away they were, and that there might be other planets just like earth near those stars, but as a child, it is still hard to imagine the sheer enormity of the universe, so in my minds eye, these were all still part of my sky. I would think of the creatures that might be on those planets, and the ships, cars, planes and spacecraft they probably had. Then I would think of what would happen if I ever got to meet one of them someday.

The fantasies I had were only fed further when shows like Space:1999, UFO, BattleStar Galactica and syndication of Star Trek came to television. They fed my desire to imagine what else was out there. Then came Close Encounters, Star Wars, and the Trek Movies. If you ask anyone who knew me at the time, you would probably get a pretty resounding “Sam’s head was always in the clouds” from all of them. It should be noted that I have not changed much… My head is still out there, somewhere. I think if I ever do become completely grounded, then that is about the time I will be pushing up daisies.

So… to the original question that I posed to my father so many years ago; “Where does the sky end?” Unfortunately, he did not have an answer for me. While I loved my father a great deal, he was not the most openly imaginative person. At least not to me… this is not to say he had no imagination, we all do. Sometime we just never find an outlet for, or a way to express it to others, especially our children, in many cases.

Looking back, I do not recall ever asking anyone else this same question, though, as kids, our thoughts are traveling so fast that our mouths can rarely keep pace, and thusly some of what we say or ask gets caught up in the tides of time and drowns. Why this one question stayed with me, I do not know. Maybe the answer that I was looking for was more in what was not said than what was said. Is it possible that, without speaking, and my being too young to understand, that my father DID answer the question? We will never know, I suppose.

Where does the sky end? Why should it? If we look at the question with science, then the sky, as we understand it, only changes from atmosphere to space, but does not really end. If we look at it from the point of imagination, then why should it end? Why can it not go on forever, and take us to other worlds that are only limited to our imagination? I read books like Narnia and the Golden Compass, and I think of what questions inspired those people to write such deep stories. It had to start with something, and maybe it was nothing more than a question to someone’s father or mother, answered or not.

Where does the sky end? It does not… as long as you do not let it end.

Depression – Reaching out from the dark.

Before I start, I need you, the reader, to understand that this is not a self help guide. It is not meant to be the key to help you out of your problem with depression. This is simply my story of how I cope and what I feel when I fall into my bouts of depression, and the paths I take to try and get out of them. If you do take something away from this that helps you, then I am happy for you and would like you to share your story with me, if you feel comfortable doing so. I just want to make it clear that I am not an expert on depression, nor am I a health professional. Please read this with the understanding that I am sharing my experience in the hope that others might take something from it for themselves.

This is also therapy for me. Talking about a problem I have suffered with for years in a way that others will see can be very liberating. I am sure that there are those out there that will read this and wonder why I am airing my issues, but if even one person out there reads this, and it touches them, then maybe it was worth it.

I cannot say for certain when I first started having depressive bouts, but I am pretty sure it goes all the way back to high school. That in itself should be no surprise to most people, since almost everyone can agree that high school is a harsh place, even for those that do well in school. It is where we first start really learning how popularity and money can divide people into groups. I think everyone experiences a little anxiety or depression in high school simply because they need to learn to fit in to certain cliques, or become outcast.

This is not going to be a “History of Me”, so I am going to concentrate more on the “here and now” and not the “there and then”. Looking at the past, at least in my case, has never been much of a help. Those are all things and times that can not be altered and should not be worried about. What is more important is how I face the future.

Many times when a person says that they are suffering from depression, the first thing people say about it, be it verbally or in their own minds, is “Oh… Get over it.” Too often people see it as just a person feeling sorry for themselves or wanting attention, and they are dismissed. I know this because there have been cases where I have talked to a person that was going through a depressive bout and I have thought that same way about them. When I go through the same bouts and I talk to people, I can see the same thing in their eyes or hear it in their voice. It is not their fault. People who do not suffer from this or who do not understand what it is to go through it, have no way of seeing the world as I do when I am experiencing a bout. In fact, I can say that I am just as guilty because I do not, and cannot, see things the way that another person might when they are going though an episode of depression.

Because, for me, depression is a personal experience, another person cannot understand my process of “going down.” When I am starting down into one of my funks I do not care what a person can tell me or what they try and do to cheer me up. In fact I really cannot see the positive in anything at that point, I just do not care. For me, if I were to use an analogy, it is a dark tunnel that leads nowhere, and only gets darker. That is what I feel when I am in a depressive mood, and the sad part about it is that I usually know when they are starting. This is as frustrating to me, as the person affected, as it is for the few people who know I suffer this problem. Talking is about the only cure or remedy that I know, but the people I talk to have to understand that I am not going to be responsive to their support at first, so all they can do is be there. Even though I may not be interested in what they have to say at the time, and I may not care for their efforts, in the moment, they do help in the long run. Another thing that helps is if they, your friends and family, understand that you suffer from depression in the first place.

I have never shared my problem with depression with my friends, at least not until this blog. I have never felt comfortable with sharing it because I have never wanted the whole “pity parade” that seems to follow people who suffer it. I also know that some of my friends would probably not understand it, especially the ones closer to my own age. This is not meant to offend them, but unless they, too, suffer it, then they would not understand what it is to go through.

In addition to the overall sense of loathing that I feel at the time, one of the hardest parts about depression, for me, is the state of reclusion that I fall into. I want nothing to do with anyone, friends, family, coworkers, etc… and I convince myself that no one wants anything to do with me. I close myself off into what I have termed my “Darkspace”. I cannot bring myself to care about anyone or anything, I have even treated friends and family rudely during these times, and only see the doom and gloom in life. My wife will try and motivate me, but she has learned what I have learned, and that is that I have to find a way out on my own. Reaching out from the dark, as I have titled this article. However, she has always been there when I come out of it.

Another thing about my episodes, is that I can see who I am during and after the attacks. I look back at my latest bout, and I know that it had a negative affect on my job and may have affected my relationships with my friends, and I know that… I also knew that at the time, but could not work my way out of it. You do not want to tell people what you are going through, because at the time, how to you explain it? Where do you start? Can you really, truly, explain what may appear to most as a state of mind? You really cannot tell a person, “Hey, I am depressed right now, I will call you back when I feel better… M’Kay?”

One of the problems with people sharing a problem like this with others, especially in my age group, is that I was raised being that taught you should not share your problems, as I am sure others were as well. You need to hide your troubles away and keep them to yourself and things like depression and openly expressing feelings were a sign of weakness or a liability. This is much like how my father was, at least to me, and many of the male figures in my life, as a child, were much the same. I have worked hard to not be like that over the last several years. Mostly because I knew that I had a problem with depression, and that the best way to help myself was to reach out to those around me.

Since depression affects everyone differently, there is nothing I can say that will be a magic bullet that will help others. What works for me, may not work for you, and you should not expect it to. If you feel that you are suffering from depression, you need to get in to see a doctor as soon as you can. While I choose not to take medicine for mine, because I understand the potential risks in doing so, you may not have that luxury. Depression should never be taken lightly.

In my case, the best thing for me to help me get out of the funk, is writing, woodworking and family. The writing gives me a release, a way to vent and share thoughts and feelings. The woodworking gives me a outlet of creativity and something to accomplish. Family… well that is self explanatory. Your family is potentially the strongest medicine you have, and is not confined to those that share your blood, but those who are close to you. I have several friends that I consider family, and in reality, they are just as much a part of my life as any brother or sister. I may not always express that with them, but I would like to think that they know.

For me… coming out of the funk and haze of depression is like walking into a well lit room after spending a while in a long dark tunnel. There is relief because I, once again, beat it down and took back control of my life. There is also sadness… because you look back, and see the person you were during that time, and the affect you had on others… those you do not know, and those you love.

If you are a religious person, that can help as well. As I have said in a couple of my past writings, there is a lot of good in your belief in god. It helps you find your center and to feel comforted that there is someone watching over you, something greater than you that you are accountable to in the end. If you find yourself in a depressive mood, and you have a Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, etc… that you can talk to, do so. That is another reason they are there, and sometimes it is just nice to talk to someone that is not part of your immediate family. I, personally, use meditation to help… it is like having a nice sit down and chat with yourself… but sometimes you may not like what you have to say, and that helps too. If you never get to know yourself, then you may never get over it.

In closing… depression is hard to get through. I will not lie to you about that, you sometimes feel like there is no way out and that nothing you do is worth anything. You may even get to the point were you are certain that no one is there for you, but none of that is true. You have to tell yourself to live above that, live above yourself. You can get through it and you can get back to being the person you, your family and other people like you to be. You just have to take it one step at a time… that is what I do. This is no different than what they teach you in a twelve-step program. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, and one day at a time.

I hope that some of what I said can give someone a little guidance.

You are more than welcome to comment, but as I said toward the beginning of this… I am not a professional in this field. I will not offer any advice, other than to tell you that you should see a professional.

A Muslim does not a terrorist make

I was awoke to some bad news this morning. It appears that a group of Hispanics decided to go after a local Mosque this morning at about 5am.

It has yet to be decided if this was a hate crime or just a issue where the Hispanic group was just being stupid, though for my money, I will go with the later.

What this does do is bring to a head, for me, something that has bugged me non-stop since Sept 11th, 2001. That is this misconception that all Muslims (or anyone following the path of Islam) is either a terrorist or in some way supporting them. This could not be farther from the truth, and the accusation is made out of one of two things… fear of what they do not understand or ignorance.

I know and have known many Muslims through my life. I work with some and I have met many through my travels, and never once, even after 9/11, have I felt uncomfortable around them. In fact a couple of them were worried about me and my attitude towards them. Shortly after the attacks, there was a rash of attacks on Mosques in the US, these were being lead by people that thought that they were doing something to get back at the people who started the attacks. In reality they were doing nothing more than showing their own ignorance and intolerance to a people that they do not understand.

To be fair, I am certain that there are those in the local Muslim communities that do feel that the attacks on 9/11 were justified, and that there should be more, but I am also very confident that they are not all that way, and in fact those that support the attacks are probably the minority of those groups. It also needs to be said that I am not including the militant groups that cause the 9/11 attacks in my qualifier.  There are militant groups in every religion, but I do not believe that they speak for everyone that practices it, only for the few that decide that this is the only option open to them.

I will not claim to be an expert on this, or anything like it. I can only go on my own experiences in life, and I have learned that most people are basically good. There are the exceptions, and we all run into them as we go through life, but they are not as many as you might think.

Back to the topic at hand. I encourage you to read the Quaran. It is truly a beautiful book… I only wish that I could read it in it’s native language. I have been told that it is much more so. I also encourage you to visit a Mosque. Not all will allow visitors (at least at the time of this writing due to threats), so check before you go. You should call them and talk to someone there, and make sure that you do nothing to offend, in other words, be respectful as you would like visitors to be while visiting your church or synagogue. Along those same lines, visit other places of worship, and learn about them as well. One of the biggest enemies to us is our own ignorance. If we succumb to ignorance, then we will never win anything more than self destruction.

In closing, religion, all religion, is a wonderful tool for living. It provides you with guidance and gives you a center. It helps keep you and your life in check by letting you know that there are much bigger things out there than yourself. Nothing is more humbling that to think of the Earth and everything on it as being nothing more than a single grain of sand on a beach.

Thank you for your time.

(12 December 2008 – Small edits have been made for clarity at this time.)

The paths we take.

“We never really think about where we are going, until we get there and realize that we did not want to be where we ended up.”

I am not sure where I heard that, but there is a certain amount of truth to it.

How often have you been working on something or wandering, then ended up in a train of thought that you really did not want to be in or can not figure out why you ended up there?

Einstein used to talk about his “Thought (Mental) Experiments”, and through them, he accomplished a lot when it came to his later theories. I guess if you were to look at it from a modern point of view, you would say that he was using a primitive form of Virtual Reality to visualize what he was doing. With me, it is not so much experiments as it is wanderings. I have always suffered a certain amount of what I call, Mental Wanderlust. Ask anyone who knew me in school… I was rarely on ground level, and my head was always in the clouds. I would be writing stories, drawing spaceships, talking about science fiction and anything else that was interesting at the time. I was in good company, though. Many of the people I hung out with were not too far removed from my wanderings, but where the difference lies is in the fact that they did not let it get ahold of them the way I did. Mine actually affected my grades and my relations with others, theirs did not.

I still wander, and probably about as much as I did then. Today I channel it into writing, like what you are seeing here. I find that this is the best form of therapy that a person with my dilemma can have. Writing about things that you enjoy is one of the most pleasurable curses that you can have. It does not matter so much if anyone reads my work as it does that I am doing something that others might enjoy and that I love doing. I guess you could say that I am giving of myself freely in the hopes that others might find some piece of wisdom that they can store in their own files, somewhere.

Through my mental wanderings, I learned that there were many paths that I wanted to take as I grew up. One of the first things I can recall telling my mother was that I wanted to be a fireman… then again, what kid did not want to be one when they were young. Then came all the other things I wanted to be… Policeman, Oceanographer, Physicist, etc… But now that I have gotten to this place and time in my life, I look back on all those things, and relish the memories that I have of those times. I know now that I will be none of those things, but I really do not look at that thought with a sense of remorse. Instead I look at it as one would look back through a mall they have just visited. All the places that you could have gone and things that you could have done. But there are more malls, and more stores. Life is long, and I have a lot more to see.

So I did not get to be a doctor, or any of the plethora of other things I wanted to be as I grew up. There are many things that I have to be greatful for that I might not have had otherwise, and the greatest of those is my wife. I cannot help but think that had I been succesful in any of my other efforts in life, I would probably have never met her. So the question arises… Should we follow the pack, of follow our heart? Should we listen to those around us or to our dreams?

There are few people in my life that have made a difference… but those that have, and who have truly guided me, have lead me to understand that most of the choices I have made up to this point, have been the right ones. Those people who I am referring to know who I am talking about, and need no introduction. But they have been the signposts on my life’s path, and will continue to be for the remainder of it.  The nice thing about the people that truly make a difference in your life is that even when they are no longer there for you, their echoes still guide you throughout your life.

We, every one of us, are given choices. We have a map that is built into our soul and our guide is nothing more that our heart and the people we meet through our lives. If we listen to both, and follow the directions that we learn from them, then we will lead a full and good life, and in turn, we will guide others through our actions and advise.  In a sense, this is immortality.

Thank you, to all those out there who have been and will continue to be my signposts.

Life and Survival in the workplace.

Workplace arguments and disagreements.

We have all been there, I am sure. You strike up a conversation with a “friend” at work, and you start to hear things that you really do not want to know, or do want to know if you are that kind of person. The person telling you this usually starts off the conversation with prefaces like “Between you and me” or “don’t let this leave the room” or other silly little qualifiers like that.

Before falling into this trap, you must ask yourself… If this information is so “hush hush” then why does this person know? and then the obvious… if this person is so freely distributing these kind of facts, then how much of what I have told him/her has been distributed to others at my work?

These are logical questions, and also important ones to consider, especially when you have to take into account your position in the company you work for. If you are just another lowly employee, and have no aspirations to advance, then you might not have much to worry about. Stop and consider, however, if you are a supervisor or someone who plans on moving up in the company, and you happen to discuss delicate information with a person further down the chain that you consider a confidant? If that person does share the information with others, as is all-too-often the case, then you might be looking at job listings in your local EDD real soon. Trust me, I have seen things like this happen.

My only advise here is this. If a person comes to you and starts to share information that you consider to be of the nature I have described… stop them right there and politely explain that you are not interested in hearing rumors or gossip. They might take it badly, and if they do, you are more than welcome to explain why you feel this way, but you do not have to feel bad for doing it. You may, in fact, be saving either your or their job.

Friendships outside the workplace.

If you work with a group of people, and they like to do things together, that is fine. But keep in mind that even though you may not be at a company function, you are still going to have an affect on the opinion people have of you. It takes a special type of person to truly separate yourself from the people that you work with and keep that professional distance in a private event.

Personally, I do not associate with my fellow employees outside work. Don’t get me wrong, if I happen to be walking down the street or in a mall, and I see someone I work with, then I will be polite and say hello. But if I am at work and someone says, “Hey, you wanna go get a beer?” Then I will politely turn them down. I do not like to mix personal and business relationships… all too often there have been cases where they cause more problems than good. But that is my take, some people can do this, and do it well; successfully keeping the professional distance while still maintaining the peer-peer or peer-mentor relationship. If this is something you are good at, then more power to you… keep it up.

Attitude in the workplace.

This is one I have been bad about. I used to have a very bad temper, and I say “used to” with a catch. I still have a bad temper, but I now know to channel it. I take a walk…

People read a lot into how you act, or react, about things, and in doing so, gain insight as to what kind of employee you are. Managers see this as a sign of the kind of supervisor or team player you might be, and fellow employees see this as how approachable you are for help that they might need. I am still working on this, and I suppose it is something that I will always have to watch myself on. I also encourage the people that I work with to let me know if I begin to slip. In reality, the only way you ever learn that you have a communication problem, is if you are strong enough to listen to the criticism of others, and use it constructively.

On that note, I have never been a good communicator, so this is what I had to learn to overcome to be a better employee. How to talk to people in a manner that they would understand, and in a way that did not give them the feeling that I was talking down to them. No one likes to be spoken down to, fellow employees least of all.

My advice here is to always understand that we all have different skills and talents. Accept that you know what you know, and that the person you are talking to might know the same thing, but approach it from a different angle. Also understand that for every person you talk to that has no clue what you are trying to explain, they may also have knowledge that you do not hold. Treat them with respect, because one day you might need their help with something. If you establish a relationship of mutual respect, regardless of your rank in the company, then you will always win.

This brings to to the last point…

Respect.

Yes… Aretha said it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Respect is an important part of any job, but is needs to be earned. People go into a job or task expecting some level of respect, but sometimes they go about trying to earn it in the wrong way, usually by locating the people that they feel will help them advance, and kissing up to them, or by trying to be buddy-buddy with the right people. You must remember that respect and friendship are not the same thing, in fact they can be far from it. Friendship in the workplace is important, but respect is even more-so. You may not always like a person, but you can respect their knowledge or skills, likewise if the person is new, and inexperienced, you can respect their drive to learn or desire to do better. You will always win if you show or offer respect to others.

Never expect a person or group to automatically respect you. Demonstrate to them that you have a skill or quality that makes you a valuable asset. Do not “kiss up” to people, this is a process that almost always leads to some level of failure, because at some point you will be called to task, and the ass you are kissing may not be there for you. If you work hard to demonstrate that you know what you are doing, and do it well, most of the time you will gain respect without ever even looking for it.  If you treat your fellow employees with respect, they will return the favor. If they see that you appreciate the work they do, and the skills they possess, then they will see you as an ally, and learn to respect you as well.

I am not an expert on any of this… and I am certainly no Ziggler or Robbins, but I would think that some of this would make sense and work for you. I encourage comments on this, and maybe even some of your own personal experiences.

Gifts and the art of giving…

I recall as a child that whenever I got a gift, it was like there was a certain set of rituals that happened beforehand. These usually comprised of my mother making a big fuss about me not looking in her closet, then her walking around telling me how much I was going to like my gift.

Thirty years later, not much has changed, only the actors in the play. Now, usually about two to three weeks before my birthday, my wife will start telling me how much I am going to like my present. Only problem is that now I am a little less enthused by the prospect of getting something. It is not that I do not like the gifts, I have just never been a good gift recipient.

Don’t get me wrong… I love getting gifts, but where the problem lies in not in the getting, but in the response to gifts.  People like to hover when they give you a present, so this creates a feeling of being on display.  You almost need to choreograph your responses with them in mind, even if you know you are going to like the gift, you need to make sure that you express your like in such a way that it is taken well.

The three items on my list as favorite things to get are, in no particular order: Clothes (Excepting underwear.), Tools and Giftcards or Books.  These win a smile from me every time.  There are some sub-categories that are exceptions…  If you buy me a tie, chances are I may use it to string up your cat or dog.  If you buy me underwear… what can I say, just don’t.  But the rest are great.

Now…  While the emotions presented when a gift is given are real, you have to be careful.  To much excitement, even if genuine, can cause the person giving the gift to become skeptical, thinking that you are trying to make them feel good.  To little emotion makes the person think you did or do not like the gift given.  The tell-tale signs of a person not being sure about the gift they have given you or the response you give is a very common comment, that should almost be included on every greeting card.  “If you do not like it, you can take it back and exchange it.”

Next to your doctor telling you “You have cancer!” or your wife saying “Honey, I’m pregnant.” or your kid saying, “Dad, I’m gay and having an affair with your boss.”  These can be some of the worst words to hear from a person.  It immediately puts you on the defensive and you now have to tread carefully with everything else you say.  It sorta reminds me of this conversation that my wife and I had years ago.  A woman can dress beautifully, and when she asks you how she looks, you have to be very careful… because no matter how you answer, she will take it apart and question anything that sounds like it may leave part of her attire or makeup in question.

Back to the gifts…  Like I said, I enjoy getting gifts, that has never been a problem.  However I enjoy giving gifts more than getting them.  There is something uniquely rewarding to the soul when you give something to someone.  I really do not pay attention to how they feel about it.  If they like it, great, if not, then there are several options that they know they have, and I let them worry about that.  Knowing myself and my own take on receiving gifts, I try not to do to others that which bothers me when people give me gifts.  I would like to think I have done pretty good.

For those of you who have given me gifts in the past, rest assured that whatever it was, and whomever it was from, I liked it.  Rarely will I not like something that is given to me, there are two reasons for that, and these are things we should all keep in mind.  1.  If a person takes the time and interest to buy you a gift, then that in itself is a gift.  That the person would take time to look for something for you says volumes about the person and their relationship with you.  That by itself is worth more that the gift.  2. Giving is the ultimate sign of friendship, whether is it an item, or the gift of ones company.  Sometimes the best thing you can give a person is your time, to sit and talk or enjoy each other’s company.

In all, the gift is not the important part, it is the friendship of the people in your life.  They are the true gifts… everything else is just icing for the cake.

Do not waste it

Along with other things, wisdom is something that we acquire as we age. Always learning what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, etc. We add these to the other things we pick up with age. Among these are weight, hair in places that it should not be, bad knees and a plethora of other gifts that nature bestows upon us.

One thing that I have learned that is important is that we need to make sure that our relationships are in good standing. It is important that we take the extra steps to make sure that we are on good or civil terms with those that mean the most in our lives.

Recently I had a co-worker pass away. While I would not call us the best of friends, I would say we were on good terms. I worked with him on an almost daily basis, as part of my job, and I knew that he had issues in his life.

The last time I spoke with him, we had there was a little friction, and while we did not hang up angry, I knew there was tension. It was a couple months later that he passed away. I had never gotten the chance to speak to this person again.

In 1991, when my father passed away, there was much the same situation, except in this case I was encouraged not to tell my father all the demons that I had built up about his and my relationship. And when he died, there was all these things that I never had a chance to tell him.

These are things that we carry with us. The things not said, the resolutions not made, the fences not mended. You never know when it will be too late to do something that could make a difference. Maybe my father was waiting for me to open up and tell him how I felt, so that he too could have that final bit of closure. Maybe my coworker would have been a little bit happier if I was able to tell him that what I said was nothing personal, and to take it with a grain of salt.

The problem is that now we will never know.

We need to make sure that we part our friends and acquaintances on good or civil terms. Never walk away angry or mad. You never know when the last words or actions you share with a person are truly going to be the LAST ones. There is no way to predict the event that might cause you or your friends to no longer be there for one another.

I make it a point to never walk away from my wife angry. We have our arguments, and some of them can be pretty interesting, but we always make up.

So… Next time you walk away from your friends, wife, husband, etc… ask yourself one important question. Do I want those to be the last words that they remember me by, or are those the last words I want to have said to that person?

Most of us will live good, long and healthy lives… and for some, this is not a question you need to ask yourself, but sometimes we say things that we regret… that is what we should watch out for. Nothing is worse than to tell a person something hurtful, then something happens and you never have the chance to take it back.

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