Empathy

‘the noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding’ – Leonardo da Vinci

 

Last week, I found myself at church in Colorado Springs.  It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Growing up in New Hampshire, I have a certain expectation of what ‘church’ is, and what it looks like.  It usually takes place in a formal ‘chapel like’ building…with a steeple and stained glass.  But this church wasn’t that.  I’d characterize it as very modern as a facility, and more progressive as a religious institution.  Upon entering the massive lobby, I was introduced to a bunch of gathering areas with attractive seating, an open concept fireplace, touch-screen sign in stations, a cafe, and an aesthetic that seemed to call more for a space for community and sharing, than a strict setting for receiving a sermon.

Now, I would call myself a non-believer…and still feel that way after visiting this beautiful church.  Why did I go?  My daughter and I took the trip to Colorado from New Hampshire to visit my cousin and her family.  Knowing how significant the church is within their lives, and how passionate my cousin is about being part of it, I really wanted to try to understand what it was all about.  I wanted to learn from an institution that I’m now pretty removed from…that I don’t necessarily believe in.  I wanted to practice empathy.

em•pa•thy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

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All too often, we think negatively about the other side of the isle.  We ruminate on the differences between us.  We wonder how someone could be so shallow in thinking in a particular manner.  But progress and benefit comes from finding alignment, seeking out similarities, and respecting one’s position.

The church service began with an amazing band, playing rock/pop type music with a religious message within the lyrics.  Those lyrics were displayed on two huge screens on either side of the band, along with a video of the performance…so you could follow along with the song.  The band was amazing.  After that, there was a guest speaker visiting from another church, filling in for the pastor.  His message was so smart…so relevant to my world, and so easy to grasp onto…even by me (a non-believer)…and even though God and Jesus were central to the sermon.  I could sift the information, and gather the valuable pieces for myself.  I could understand how others could be so faithful here.  I could practice empathy.

This practice of empathy can seem warm and fuzzy, mostly reserved for vegetarians and yoga instructors.  And in some ways it is.  It’s choosing to lead with love as the intention.  It’s honestly taking another person’s feelings into consideration, and honoring and respecting those as you exchange words.  It’s forgiving and welcoming instead of judging.  Do you try to do that?  When was the last time you were truly empathetic to someone with opposite values of your own?  On the other hand though, this practice is very practical.  It’s a win-win for both sides.  It allows for necessary changes within society to more efficiently take place.  And it provides us with a broader perspective…one that leads to a more rich and fulfilling life.

I left the church with a newly found respect for my cousin and her family, on top of the love I already had.  I felt so lucky to share this experience with them, and that they welcomed me so warmly to a sacred part of their lives…without even knowing my thoughts on spirituality or religion.  And I felt really positive about a community that thinks differently than me…knowing that they are practicing something so worthy, and that their doing it just so right.

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When I was 21, I was working at a local car dealership, detailing cars that were traded in when customers purchased a new one.  I had worked there with my best friend for the past 2 or 3 years…basically since high school.  My friend found a gun in one of the cars.  He told me about it, and took it home.  Within a week or two, my friend committed suicide with that gun.

Since then, as you can imagine, I’ve had very negative connotations associated with guns.  I was never really interested in them to begin with…and this situation, being my first real connection to a hand gun, immediately deterred me from becoming comfortable with them.

You see, from my perspective, as naive as this may sound to you, my friend was dealing with something that made him unhappy for some time.  And he was ‘living’ with that.  When a gun was introduced to his environment, things quickly changed.  It seemed to me that had he not found a gun, he’d still be living.  I know, I know… he may have found another way.  But try to understand how it felt to me…try to feel it…practice empathy for me if you can.

Now, many years removed from that situation, I’m still not interested in guns.  I’m definitely not as sensitive to it as I once was.  I just don’t care to have one.  And part of that decision was certainly shaped by that early experience that I had.  Recently though, I’ve had great conversations with two guys that love guns.  They both seemed to believe in owning guns for sport, as well as for a way to protect themselves…their homes…their families.  And instead of focusing on how dangerous that could be, or wondering why they feel they need some of the weapons they have, or telling them why my perspective is more valid in today’s world…I listened.  I gave my best effort to respecting their values…their reasons.  I provided an opportunity for them to voice why they accept that owning guns is effective and significant.  I practiced empathy.

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I hope that by going to church…that by talking guns…I, in some small way made others feel positive about their position.  I know that by doing both, I felt more positive about my own.  Not ‘positive’ as in all-knowing and never swaying…’positive’ as in good…healthy…happy.  When we practice empathy, we expose ourselves and others to the fact that the world is full of vastly diverse perspectives.  We open ourselves up to the multitude of possibilities and opportunities.  And regardless of how small we move the needle, we make the world a better place.

Thank you so much for your time,

Jimmy Thorpe

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Fictional case study #2 (Good guy Gary)

‘the path to success is to take massive, determined actions’ – Tony Robbins

 

It is interesting that we often look outside of ourselves for direction and advice.  We ask others what they would do. We actually value that advice more than we consider our very own.  Most people are just built that way. And with today’s social media world, it’s all on display. We’re constantly evaluating our choices, actions, posts…by the amount of likes or type of comments we get.  It’s harder to go truly insular these days, and stay discipline with your own feelings and opinions. But for the select few that can go there…and that can keep returning there…the payoff will be insane!

Take this fictional story as an example of that:  Gary is a 41 year old good guy. He works for an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) company.  He has a 5 year old daughter named Madison. Gary is divorced and has his own place.

He’s recently noticed that he’s about 30 pounds overweight.  He feels strong from the work he does, but he hasn’t seen his own muscle definition since two years out of high school.  He has that trendy new shape that’s now a popular hashtag on instagram…#dadbod. And even though that trend has made it seem more acceptable to wear the extra layer of blubber, he knows how much more attractive he’d be…how healthier he’d feel…if he lost the weight, or better yet…turned most if that weight into muscle!

Another thought that Gary has been having lately, is that he recognizes that he is modeling behavior for his daughter Madison.  She soaks up everything at this young age, and is watching his every move. As she’s growing up, he’s having more and more conversations with her about healthy eating and exercise…but when Madison is at Mom’s house, Gary is eating chips on the couch.  He isn’t practicing what he’s preaching. And deep down, he knows that he’s influencing his daughter. In some way, she’s going to inherently take on some of his practices. We are all ‘products of our environment’. Sure, there is the nature vs. nurture debate.  But either way, we are shaped by what we come from. The apple still falls from the tree, regardless of how far it rolls away.

Gary hasn’t done much research on exercise.  Like most of us, he hasn’t majored in exercise science…but he understands that some cardio, some strength training, and a lot of eating healthy is what will transform his body.  And he wants to get to the gym…he just doesn’t know which one to go to.  There’s Planet Fitness over here, Bikram Yoga over there, a power-lifting gym, a place that coaches olympic lifting…not to mention the 3 new crossfit gyms in town! bHe told himself (and his daughter) that one of his New Year’s resolutions was to get into better shape.  But it’s mid March now, and he figures it’s too late to have a beach body ready for the summer. He might as well wait until Fall to start really making a push for the next summer.

As Gary starts thinking about it too much, you can see how he starts getting into trouble.

He’s also feeling a little insecure…not that he would come out and say that to anyone! When he was a kid, his dad taught him that men don’t show emotions or feelings like that. Most of Gary’s buddies though, belong to one of these local gyms, or at least play men’s league basketball once a week.  Gary runs out of breath just going up a flight of stairs. He doesn’t want to have to start at square one at the gym, when everyone else is killing it. He’d be ‘that guy’…the one that can’t bench-press the big 45 pound weight plates…the one that’s sweating all over the elliptical machine after 5 minutes of use.  He doesn’t want to be that guy. Actually, he doesn’t want others to see him as that guy. This is again, an example of how some of us let others control how we live (or don’t live) our lives.

And even though this isn’t something Gary would discuss with Madison, it’s somehow passed down to her anyway.  Gary thinks he puts off an ‘I live on my terms’ vibe to his daughter…but the subconscious nuance to that is out of his control.  The subtleties of his actions, of his reactions, of his initial responses to everyday occurrences…are unfortunately telling Madison, ‘our family doesn’t crush it.  We worry some…about how we come across to others. We think and talk, more than we actually do.’  Gary could tell Madison how important it is to not worry about what others think, but his actions are creating 10x the results in the opposite direction.  It isn’t even a contest.

/nuᐧance/ – a subtle difference in;  shade of meaning, expression, or sound.

Another thought Gary has been having is about his gear.  His running shoes are so old and dirty. He only has 2 or 3 pair of athletic shorts.  His ipod is big and clunky and old and doesn’t hold a charge. He sees that everyone else has cool stuff!  New compression shorts and pants, bright sneakers and socks, and that cool armband thing that conveniently holds a new ipod out of the way.  And everyone pretty much only wears dryfit materials now, which Gary has none of. He thinks he’s going to look stupid…no matter what he does.  He thinks he should probably stock up on some of this gear over time…then he’ll be ready for the gym.  

On top of that, he knows the potato chips and chillaxing on the couch needs to change. He actually has some good ideas about eating healthy, but he thinks that he should finish up eating all of the junk in the house, as not to waste, then start getting healthier with his diet.  Once he gets his diet right, then he’ll feel more ready to approach the gym.

Boy…some of us can see that Gary is soft…physically and mentally.  He should just go! Who cares about all that stuff he’s worrying about?  

On the other hand, some of us can truly identify with Gary.  Sometimes it feels that we need to first take care of A, in order to feel comfortable trying B.  And sometimes it seems that other people have all the right stuff. And we don’t. But that’s just a losing mentality.  

By thinking too much…by wondering what ‘most others’ are doing…by giving energy to what other people might feel…Gary has already lost.  

If he focused on doing, and just starting somehow…he’d be well on his way to ‘healthy Gary’, who would be (by the way), the absolute best role model for Madison.  

At the first hint of a feeling that Gary had about being out of shape (that very day!), he should have laced up the old running shoes and gone out for a 5k run…no ipod necessary.  Leaving from his house, taking it nice and slow, he could easily complete the 3.1 miles. Imagine the pride and sense of accomplishment after that! Then, he could have made stir fry vegetables and rice for dinner…with some yogurt (instead of ice-cream) for dessert.  

Now picture Gary’s mindset the following morning…as opposed to all of that negative thinking he was doing in the other model.  Imagine the effect and influence on Madison that next morning as they approach the day together. I wonder what different experiences they’d have.  I wonder how much more she’d be exposed to in her childhood, going this route. And I wonder how much further Madison would reach into her own potential, living with a dad who creates action, instead of one who sits and worries.  

I don’t think we understand this effect as well as we should.  I know that I don’t myself. And I’m trying to be more aware of it every single day.  It is very obvious that the far majority of us have wonderful intentions. We all, of course, want the best for our children.  Gary wants Madison to be healthy…and wants her to know how to achieve and maintain that lifestyle.  And deep down, we all believe that we’re teaching our children all about what is right and wrong.  It’s worth considering though, that within that teaching, it’s much more effective to focus on doing…not on lecturing or thinking.  

 

Thank you for reading!

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1%

‘i want to be different.  If everyone is wearing black, I want to be wearing red’ –

Maria Sharapova

 

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A couple of months ago, I came to the realization that doing something you’ve never done…as consistently and often as possible…can be really healthy for you.  It’s similar to my thinking around living ‘on the edge of comfort’.  And it’s all about continually challenging ourselves, and putting ourselves in positions to earn grit, to try, to do…to learn.

As I was reading yesterday, I came to another realization.  Yes, you can call it an ‘epiphany’ if that’s how you roll.  The people that are getting the most out of life…that are the most fulfilled and content…are doing what most other people won’t do, or aren’t doing.  The folks who are trendy, or first to the party.  The ones that are different, but intriguing nonetheless (first time using ‘nonetheless’…nailed it!).  There seems to be success and fulfillment in practicing the actions that most other people simply don’t.  We should all be trying to be part of the 1% crowd!

e•piph•a•ny – a sudden, intuitive perception of, or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Being a 1 percenter (financially) has it’s own inherent connotations.  Some of us believe that those folks make too much money, and that they owe more of their fair share.  Others of us think that they create opportunities for the 99 percenters, and that their trickle down effect is truly beneficial to us bottom dwellers.

But I’m not speaking on financial earnings.  I’m talking about our actions…our choices and our experiences.

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So many people I know have had the same haircut since high school!  Switch it up a bit.  Try a different you!  Be the 1%

There isn’t much interest for me in playing in the middle…in doing what everyone else is doing…in doing ‘what I’m supposed to be doing’.  It suffices to say that there is much more intrigue in living on the outer edges…the fringes. And I’d go as far to say that better health, contentment, ‘success’, fulfillment, and overall happiness are found in living in the 1%

Here is an image, full of generalities, that should help illustrate my feelings here:

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Considering all of that, a 1%’er is a person who chooses to live life on their own terms.  They will live and die on their own sword.  Instead of life happening to them…they are making their life happen.

I challenge you to create your own 99% and 1% column chart.  Right now…write down 5-10 things you do that most of the population does.  Then, write down the things you do that only 1% does.  Use it as your journal entry for the day.  What can you take from your chart?  What can you learn about yourself?  Are you playing in the middle too much…where everyone else is?  Or, are you hanging out within that extraordinary population enough of the time?  And…what do you feel about your actions, considering what side their on?  Do your 1% actions bring you joy, vibrancy, passion, and love?  Do they put you around people that are good for you?  I bet they do!

Please share your chart with me, or any feedback from this in the comments, or on my Facebook page.  I’d love to hear some results, and learn more about this!  Here are some of my own results:

Some of My 99% actions

  • watching too much tv – March Madness, Celtics basketball, and I’m currently binge watching Breaking Bad for the 3rd time…oops.
  • consuming way too much sugar
  • not hanging with my guy friends enough
  • procrastination

 

Some of my 1% actions

  • I keep bees (and harvest my own honey)
  • cycling (road biking)
  • have my own business
  • work when I want
  • sing, and play guitar
  • eat a vegetarian diet
  • Write in a Blog
  • Have my own podcast
  • follow an ‘advanced athlete’ training program

 

Some 1% actions I want to pursue

  • swim (for fitness/health)
  • write books
  • start a wine club
  • start a dad/daughter club

 

All love!

emailsig

 

38

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38

Last year…on my 37th birthday…I published a piece called 37.  It was basically stating that I’d be starting the process of documenting all of my writing.  And it was thanking all of you for affecting and influencing me…however you have.  Click here to read it.

I also wrote a piece on Medium this past Fall called #roadto40 – a Midlife Manifesto, in which I basically stated my commitment to a more deliberate way of living, with hopes of documenting my journey along the way.  Click here to read that!

Now that a year has gone by, and I’m further down that road to 40…I figure I better check in with myself to see how the trip is going.

In one way, that 37 year contained so much.  The days and weeks and months felt very slow, filled up…fulfilling.  On the other hand, now that the year is in the past and I’m looking back at it, the time went so fast.  Along with that, I didn’t get done as much as I wanted; my to do list actually grew.  By the way, that was the first time I’ve used a semi-colon in forever.  I am an English major, but still have no idea how to use one correctly.  Please advise in the comments.

But yeah…my list!  It’s fascinating that as we age and grow, we become more exposed to potentialities and opportunities we never knew existed.  In a way, when I was younger, I thought I knew my options.  ‘I’ll go do that, that, and that when I’m older,’ is kind of how it went through my head as a naive young man.  But after I got to the first ‘that’, I found 3 others that I was interested in.  And those took energy away from the pursuit of my original ideas!

This may seem obvious to you.  It’s just how life is.  It usually doesn’t go exactly as planned.  And, we think we know more than we really do.  I now have advice and lessons that I could tell my 20 year old self.  What’s more interesting, is realizing that my 60 year old self will have far more lessons for where I am now.  My recent focus on writing, on self exploration, on living deliberately…has provided me a truly humble and grateful perspective.  One that allows me to more effectively understand the road I travel on.

Before I challenge myself with what is next on my current ‘to do’ list, I feel it’s important to reflect on the experiences of my 37 year.  I will now detail that reflection within an interpretive dance.  Hmmm…the upload isn’t working for that dance video…so you’ll have to use your imagination.

In general, I’ve really been able to focus on appreciating others during this year.  Realizing how significant my relationships are, and how grateful I am for anyone who’s influenced me (good or bad), I’ve opened myself up to new opportunities (like I spoke about above), and actually discovered a love for others…instead of a fear that I once had.

Unfortunately, my own insecurities held me back, starting in my teens and sticking around far too long.  I developed a dislikedness (my own word) for other people, which really stemmed from that fear I had at the start.  I’m sorry for that.  I hope it didn’t affect you at all.  I used to want you and everyone else to lose…and for me to win.  It was sad, and lonely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an introvert at my core.  I need a lot of ‘me’ time…selfish time…to charge up…to center.  It’s not natural for me to be ‘out’ all of the time, socializing, partying, connecting.  That’s not me…and you won’t see me doing a lot of that.  Interestingly enough, my #roadto40, my self-exploration has been effective in letting me be selfish.  By thinking through and identifying what it is I really want, and doing that as much as possible, I’ve ‘got myself good’.  I’m honestly now in a very happy place…more than I’ve ever been.  I feel content, fulfilled.  And what’s been refreshing through all of that, is that now…all I want to do is connect with others.  I want to hear what you’re up to.  I want to know your story.  What’s your #roadto40 like?  What is in your manifesto?  I want to learn from you!

By the way, I also feel that I have something very beneficial to offer others, whether it be through my writing, or simply connecting some other way.  I so want you to win too now…just as much, if not more than I want to win!  And boy do I want to win!  If there’s any way I can help someone in that…I want to be there, and I’m very serious about that.  Please let me know.

This year, I want to connect more.  I’ll be starting new projects in hopes to bring people together.  I can’t wait to celebrate and learn with you.  Please come join me if you can!  I’ll be in touch.

I’ve also started writing a book.  It’s been both very rewarding and challenging.  I haven’t identified a date yet for when I want to be done…but, it’s certainly on my list.

Thinking about that, I have a favor to ask of you.  Please tune in.  Please follow me.  I’ll never take it for granted, and so appreciate it.  It’s very humbling that someone would choose to read something I wrote…or listen to what I have to say.  Thank you.  Share me, or recommend me to anyone who might get value from anything I’m doing.   I really want to connect with more beautiful people, and that starts with you shooting out your webs!

Here are some things I’m up to currently…and where you can find me:

Home base – jimmythorpe.com

Monthly Book Club – Each month, I send out 1 email, describing a couple of books that I highly recommend.  Find out what I’m reading, and sign up for the email club here!

Podcast – You can find my ‘Breathe upon Waking’ podcast on itunes, Google Play, on the Anchor app, or on my website homepage here.

Facebook – come say hello here!

Cork and Crush Wine Club – I started tasting a different wine every week.  Once I get my palate more educated…just kidding…once I get organized, I’m going to invite you to come join me.  Stay posted here! 

East Concord Grass Roots – I still own and run a landscaping company.  Spring is coming.  Call me!

Dads and Daughters – I’m still in the developing phase of this…but soon, I’ll be starting a group for dads and daughters to meet up and hang out.  I want to provide an experience to strengthen that bond, and to help build a community for us Dads to all learn within.  Please contact me to be part of this.

Snapchat – it’s just fun!  Come find me there @thorpedojam

Instagram – some pics, hopefully some inspiration…I’m loving Instagram stories right now! Follow me @thorpe42

Music! — I’m trying to learn guitar and voice. It’s a work in progress. I’m ‘under construction’ for sure. But I use my YouTube channel to challenge myself to keep learning and post a new one. Come listen!

All love!

emailsig

school ties

originally published on July 19, 2017

‘every child is an artist.  the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up’- Picasso

 

*two books related to this topic…and that I highly recommend reading are The Global Achievement Gap by Wagner, and Home Grown: adventures in parenting off the beaten path, unschooling, and reconnecting with the natural world, by Hewitt.

Also, check out this blog on Unschooling by Leo Babauta


As Matilda grows closer to school aged, I find myself thinking about her education more and more.  She’s 4 years old now, and won’t be old enough for kindergarten until the Fall of 2018. So there is some time…but none like the present to consider options.  I honestly haven’t made any conclusions about how I feel in regards to kindergarten and school yet.  But I have read a bunch, spoke to some others about it, and think on it often.  Hopefully, writing on the topic will allow me to explore it more deeply, and help define what I truly believe in.  




step back

While you may think I’m speaking of a Steph Curry ‘step back’ 3 pointer, I’m talking more about what I believe all of us ‘citizens’ need to practice before thinking about education.  It’s a term that I’ll use to describe a pausing, stepping out of the box, and the employment of a wide and general perspective.  You see, I never questioned school really.  I’m not sure my parents did either.  Maybe your parents didn’t.  It’s just been accepted over time that school is where you go starting at age 5 and ending at age 18.  It’s what everyone does.  We’ve done it for a long time, and now you’re going to do it.  But what does that allow our children?  What does it provide them?  How does it challenge them?  How is it tailored for them?  What will it prepare them for?  And how will we determine their success within this institution?  



It is pretty obvious to me that a student that attends 180 days of school (let’s say a first grader), will know more facts and things than a child that doesn’t go to school for that 180 days.  The schooled student will test better, follow rules quicker, and be better prepared to take on the 2nd grade curriculum.  They will be ‘ahead of the curve’ compared to the unschooled child.  ‘Stepping back’ though…is saying ‘who cares’ to all of that.  It’s saying, standardized tests are not what define my child.  It’s recognizing that rules can be bent in life outside of school…there is always a loophole…and questioning everything is actually very beneficial.  It’s submitting to the rat race of parent’s claiming high percentiles of where their child sits, admitting that the curve that we’re all trying to get ahead of is a slippery slope that doesn’t matter as much as we’re drilled to believe.  Stepping back is believing that it’s ok that my child doesn’t ride a bike as well as other 4 year olds.  It’s ok if my child’s reading level isn’t where the common core says it should be.  I understand it’s difficult to be ok with that, especially considering societal pressure.  But…we don’t need to constantly compare each to another…and rank accordingly.  We all contain multitudes.  These microcosms and measurements are small pieces of our entire selves.  

math/statistics

6 hours per school day (approx) multiplied by 180 school days = 1080 hours per school year.  


12 school years + kindergarten = 13 school years.


13 school years x 1080 hours = 14,040 hours of total schooling through completion.

Is it too much?  Is it enough?  Are the hours used most effectively?

The average American 15 year old spends about 5 hours per week doing homework…and since students with a more advantaged socio-economic status tend to do more homework than less fortunate students, ‘homework helps perpetuate existing inequalities in education’, says the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) researchers. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks ’38th out of 71 countries in math…24th in science…24th in reading’.  

While there have been some very small gains since the 1990’s, standardized test scores in the US have gone down since 2013.  

How are our schools failing us?  How are they preparing our children for the unpredictable, ever changing future?  Do test scores matter?  Do world rankings matter?  How are our children allowed to fail, and encouraged to try again…a different way? 

This TED talk is one of the most watched ever.  It asks the question, ‘do schools kill creativity’? And I highly recommend it! …the video…not killing creativity.




How kind is kindergarten?

Recent NH news has described how full day kindergarten will finally be funded here, as it passed through the NH legislature.  

Having discussions with many parents about this, I’ve heard a common thread…and that is that the schedule of full-day kindergarten will allow parents to send their kids away without having to pick up or drop off midday.  So basically, it’s the logistics that people are most happy about.  This is just what I’ve heard the most…not the entire story.  

I’ve also heard a bit of ‘my child will be more ready for 1st grade, which will then lead to future success’.  This argument is somewhat obvious to me again…but another area in which I use the step back approach.  Of course, any student that goes through the routine of a full day school schedule will be ahead of one that doesn’t.  They will test better, follow rules quicker, possess a deeper understanding of how a school day functions, sit at a higher reading and math level, etc. etc. However, the ‘leading to future success’ part has been proven wrong. The intellectual and social/emotional gains from kindergarten are found up to a 3rd or 4th grade level.  After that they drop off.  So if we step back and consider what the real pros and cons of full day kindergarten are, there is more of a story that I need to be told.  Some questions I have about it are:

How much ‘free play time’ will children have?  What is the curriculum, and where I can I find it?  What arts will be part of the school day?  Is funding this thing with Keno (a lottery game that I believe is currently illegal in NH) a wise decision…sustainable…respectable?  It feels…icky.  

I don’t believe anymore in sedentary, sitting in the desk, receiving curriculum from the teacher, following structure and rules, no risk involved, being told how to think and learn.  I know this isn’t every school and every teacher.  There are so many good ones out there…and they make a difference.  But the structure/institution seems to be broken…or lacking…and not providing the best possible return on investment.   

Take a look at this kindergarten in Tokyo, and look how different it looks from something our children will receive.  It’s experiential, creates wonder, involves risk, allows bending of rules, includes inherent challenges (physical and emotional).  

what now?

I was a teacher once.  I didn’t leave because I ‘disagreed’ with school.  I had surely lost the passion I once had though, and was feeling totally burnt out, lacking resources, lacking technology, looking at a pay cut the following year, wondering how to best provide for my young daughter in the years to come, and trying to run a small business on the side.  It was a multitude of variables pulling me away.  

I was a student once too.  I remember some good moments in elementary and middle school. I had some fun, and made some great connections with people.  The early years of school felt easy to me.  I got good grades, and I had good manners.  On the other hand, I remember often staring off out a window, or at a wall.  Not an inspired and dream-filled daydream.  It was always filled with the thought, ‘when will this be over?’  I remember feeling insecure, especially as I got older and entered high school, not fitting in, not knowing where to sit, how to get along.  Things became much harder for me then.  I failed.  I quit.  Fortunately, I went right back and finished.  But high school is a sad memory for me, and very negative.   I envy others when I hear they loved high school so much.  I’m happy for them, but that is foreign to me.  





I’ve recently became infatuated with this idea of Unschooling.  It’s not homeschooling, with a curriculum and standards.  It’s simply not going to school…and allowing the parent and child the decision on what to learn, when, and how they want to…ultimate freedom.  It sounds scary at first…and those thoughts of meeting grade level standards, keeping up with the Jones’, and how will my kid be successful with that? start to creep in.  But if we step back, we can accept that those worries don’t truly hold weight.  They don’t define us as individuals when we leave school anyway….and the same questions can be asked of a schooler…with similar validity.  There are so many other meaningful experiences that can be had within 14,040 hours, that may lead to more influential lessons learned.  

Take a look at this talk by an unschooler.  He brings up some intriguing ideas, and it’s refreshing to hear his perspective.  




Music:  This song is beautiful…and speaks about when a girl just has a way about her.

  

always be closing

‘thoughts are great…but action leads to closing’         emailsig


A.B.C.


I must admit it…my house is a mess!  And…I just cleaned up that area.  How does it already look like a storm hit it?  


I have to confess…I’ve started a thousand projects around here, and about 999 of them still seem ‘under construction’.  


I should accept it.  I have a problem.  Actually many, but I’ll start with this one and see if I can find closure with it.

I peg myself as really good at coming up with ideas.  I have journals and sheets and post it notes collected with a bunch of random ideas.  These can be related to business, the house, relationships, professional development, investments, blah blah blah.  Most of my ideas are bad.  However, I believe that while coming up with many poor ideas…and documenting them…I’m bound to come up with a good one here and there.  It’s almost like I come up with 99 bad ideas for every one diamond in the rough.  It’s a low shooting percentage but hey, if you don’t shoot you can’t score.  

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Matilda comes up with the best ideas!


I do feel strongly about documenting by the way.  If you don’t put your thoughts and ideas and goals down on paper, or somewhere digitally, they’ll just float around in your head, and possible float out of your head for good.  Once you put them somewhere, you can make space in your head for developing that idea or adding interest to it…or coming up with another one.  Find yourself a cool journal, even a good expensive one.  It’s investing in your own brain/goals/ideas.  And it will encourage you to put good use to it, and hold value in your own beliefs.  

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Closing the deal


So I’m good with all that stuff.  My interests are many.  I’m quick to jump into things and just try something.  I love learning anything new.  However…I’m not good with following the practice of the phrase, ‘Always Be Closing’.  This phrase is from the 1992 drama film called Glengarry Glen Ross, in which the character played by Alec Baldwin encourages some of the other characters to close deals within their sales work.  Watch out for bad language, but here is a great clip from the movie.  Look…it’s a very shallow message in regards to simply making more money above all else, and disregarding things like being a good dad, or being kind. However, it struck a chord with me in how it can relate to the idea of completing something. And this is what I have trouble with.  As I said, I can start a bunch of projects.  But I never seem to finish many of them.  

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Finishing touches


This weekend, I had a task that I wanted to complete.  The ramps in my landscape trailer have to be lifted in and mounted to the inside walls for transportation.  Well, I’ve always had this crap system of a cheap eye-hook and bungee chords to hold them in place.  Boring I know…bear with me.  This system has bothered me for about 5 years.  I can’t believe that! I’ve spoken about it, wrote down ideas, sworn at it many times…but never really done anything about it.  Well on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, I came up with a plan, went to the hardware store for materials, and put in a new ramp mounting system.  It was actually pretty easy!  On Sunday, I found myself putting all of my tools back in their proper place, sweeping up the garage floor of all debris, and wiping down my workbench with a cleaner and paper towels.  I suddenly thought, ‘Oh my…I’ve actually completed something, and I’m in the very final stage of cleaning up the mess associated with it.  I never do this!’  I’m telling you…it felt so good.   I immediately thought about ‘Always Be Closing’, and the benefits related to that.  I thought about Casey Neistat, and how he has those words tattooed on his arm.  He actually dedicated an entire Vlog to this idea.  Watch it here! 

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harvesting is closing

Neistat says that if you start a bunch of things and don’t finish them, you’re a loser.  That’s me…how sad.  Someone who starts something and always finishes it is a closer.  That’s not me.  My new focus is to become more of a closer.  I must bring my ideas to fruition…see them through to their fullest potential.  I’m on it.  By closing, and completing something, we are able to reap the rewards related to our project.  After dealing with annoyance of the ramp system in my trailer for 5 years, and halfheartedly poking at it here and there with temporary repairs, no wonder I felt so good about putting smart and hard work to it and having it completed.  

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Finished a dance season…proud Dad!



Closing leads to you feeling much more productive.  

Closing frees up space in your head for other, more important ideas. 

Closing encourages intellect and hard work over complaining and hoping.

Closing leads to more appreciation instead of expectation.  

Don’t be a loser…be a closer!

 



Organization


A.B.C. totally relates to keeping our lives organized too.  This is an area that I struggle with, and one that I’ll be putting some more focus into.  When you come home…with a bunch of things in your hands…maybe a bag or two…and pockets full of receipts and change and hair clips (for some reason, I always find myself here)…do you put everything away in it’s designated spot?  What I usually do is pile it onto my dining room table.  It’s flat, easy to access, and I won’t need the table until about 5:30pm.  That’s not closing.  That’s losing!  The worst is when I’ve put together a nice dinner and I go to bring plates to the table for Matilda and I, to find my loser pile in the way.  Worst!


I do have all of the designated places for things.  I have a file cabinet with nicely labeled folders, a piggy bank in the living room, a cup in the bathroom for Matilda’s hair clips.  I just don’t follow that step of putting things directly into their proper place.  And this is key.  If you hired someone to come ‘organize your house’ or your life, a main thread would be to immediately place things into their position.  Put them in their home.  Look at your computer desk, your kitchen counters, the desktop on your computer…even your email inbox.  Are you organized?  I’ve started trying to get to a totally empty email inbox as often as possible.  This entails creating simple folders, unsubscribing from all of the crap, deleting as soon as possible, and once a day, taking care of pertinent messages.  It relieves so much stress for me to have a clean slate.  But I need to work on the more ‘physical’ areas of my life…and organize those.  I want to finish more projects on my to do list…not just start them.  I don’t want to be a loser anymore…I want to be a closer!  Please comment if you’ve found effective ways of ‘closing’ in your own life.   

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thoughts are great…but action leads to closing!


Music:  Blind Pilot is an Oregon based band.  They use interesting instruments like a mountain dulcimer, vibraphone, and a harmonium.  Here’s a great one called New York.




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i’m no different than you

just my thoughts man – right or wrong…just what I was feeling at the time’ – Jay Z

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We cannot really judge one another, or blame one another for our thoughts and opinions.  It is honestly best to forgive someone for ideas you disagree with.  Best to appreciate their perspective.  Taking this approach broadens your own perspective, and allows you to employ a broader scope…a wider lens.

 

I once heard a line related to this, and it’s surfaced often when thinking about others…and our differences.  It basically says that ‘you would do exactly what any other  person does…behave in the same exact manner…had you been born to their parents, in the place they were raised, and brought up the same way’.  I’m not sure where I heard this.  Maybe it just came to me.  Actually, I’ll just go ahead and claim it as mine right now!  However simple it may be, it has provided me with a moral integrity in which I believe we’re all on the same level playing field.  

Here is a healthy practice for you to try:  think of a child living in a very different situation and place than what you have…preferably a child in a different culture, different socio-economic situation…something almost ‘opposite’ of you.  Then consider the fact that this child could have been you!  What if you were born there?  Had to walk in those shoes?  In that climate?  This consideration has helped me develop a better understanding of others, and has led to less judgement.  It’s allowed me to listen more effectively.  It’s let me submit to others, and forgive, and appreciate.

This can sound like a weak position.  Always submitting to others, and forgiving when people hurt me, or bring adversity to my life?  Won’t that just lead to people steam rolling over me and using me as a doormat?  No.  Believe it or not, giving up control and judgement has given me a stronger sense of who I am.  Instead of wasting so much energy on trying to control others, and situations, to no avail…I maintain a positive mindset, and often frame a response in my mind with the phrase ‘Is that so?’  This provides a position where almost nothing can knock me off course, regardless of the strength of the tides.  I acknowledge the potential storm.  I maintain the secure and reliable mast, and calmly set the main sail.  Then I begin wayfinding through the tempest.  I feel like Maui…with Moana at my side!  

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i am moanaaaaaaaaaa!
I once feared different ideas and opinions, opposite of my own.  I was once intimidated by others who stood for values other than mine.  This fear is what I believe to be one of the obstacles between groups not seeing eye to eye.  And considering how many of us often fear the unknown, it may not even be a conscious wall we’re constructing within our minds.  A natural cascading and compounding of negative or fear-filled thoughts can build, without us being aware.  It’s as if within our typical day, during our tasks, we mindlessly grab a brick and place it on an arbitrary line.  When the day is done, we’ve put up a faulty facade…a sloppy screen between ourselves and others.  It gives you a false sense of security, and you may be proud of where you stand and what you’ve built.  But the wall was constructed on careless judgement, weak mortar mix, an uneven foundation…not deliberate decisions, mindful masonry, on a level, compacted cornerstone.   


I’ve already blogged some about being aware of our own thoughts, and the benefits of thinking positive.  Here is a post related to that.  This awareness will help to clean up your rubble if you have some, and strengthen your position and security without the need of a wall.  What’s the best way to find that awareness?  Start meditating.  And start being mindful of your thoughts and reactions to different subjects.  It takes practice like anything else.  But with a little training, you’ll find yourself on a journey filled with happiness and contentment. Your shoulder may soften with the chip removed, allowing others a better landing to lean on.  

One final thought that I think of often is ‘how do i make other people feel?’  At the end of our short time in this place, this question may be central to how successful our time was actually invested.  This is of course difficult to know, as we can’t totally understand how others feel about us.  And it’s less about what others ‘think’ of us…more about the kindness, support, generosity, and acceptance that we provide…hopefully leading to a comfort and security felt by the people around us.  I believe a good, healthy self check-in is to ask yourself ‘how am I making other people feel?’


You feel me?



Music:  Here is an oldie but a goodie from The Lumineers.  The band leader’s wife told him he was like the Dead Sea…that she’ll never sink when he’s with her…and he wrote a song including this sentiment.  How romantic. 

emailsig