Monday, December 21, 2009

The Inevitable

"Have the courage to live. Anyone can die."
-Robert Cody, American performer

Why does everybody always get so distraught over the one thing that is certain to happen in life? It's inevitable. We're all currently rolling inexorably toward it. Face it now or face it never in all your ignorance: one day, maybe soon, maybe 50 years from now, YOU WILL DIE.

Kick the bucket. Keel over. Croak. Decease. Expire. Pass on. Sleep Eternally. Perish. Blink for an exceptionally long period of time. Push up daisies. Terminate. Curtains. Pay a debt to nature. Feed the worms. Check out. Demise. Cash in the chips.

However you want to phrase it, it will happen to you. But how?

Burn to death. Drown. Get shanked in prison. Get shanked on the streets. Shot. Stabbed. Sliced. Diced. Drive your car off a cliff. Choke on a marble. Impact death. Cardiac arrest. Overdose. Surgery gone wrong. Alcohol poisoning. Suicide. Poison. Cancer. Bleed to death after being bitten by a shark. Tapeworm. Swine flu. Bee stings. Eating shellfish. Electrocution. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Emphysema. AIDS. Blunt object to the face. Child-birth. Eaten by a bear in the woods.

However you want to phrase the means to your ends, it will happen to you.

Brittany Murphy died at the age of 32. The country is mourning. If you don't think it is, click here. Why?
  • She was so young
  • She was such a great actress
  • She inspired me
  • "It's so tragic!"
I see two problems with the story I linked to: a.) was someone honestly paid to go interview "fans" of Brittany Murphy and get cliche answers regarding her age and family? And that story ACTUALLY appears in my Google feed? b.) Everybody is so damn sad.

People die all the time. Babies die at birth. Soldiers die in war. Millions of Africans die of starvation and poor water quality. Haley Joel Osment gets stabbed outside his school (Pay It Forward reference, just in case you mistakenly thought he really did die...give it time, though). Why does everybody get so damn sad?

The samurai had it right (for the most part). They embraced death. Even welcomed it. They didn't rush toward it in hopes of finding it, but they also didn't run from it out of fear. They believed, and rightly so in my estimation, that the true test of a man's character is faced upon his deathbed. Granted, they also committed a heck of a lot of seppuku, which I don't particularly agree with; but regardless, there was no big mourning process. No crying out in frustration. They accepted their fate and so did their peers.

We need to learn to do that. To accept death for what it is: an inevitability. Brittany Murphy is dead. Let that sink in real nice and deep til you know you won't forget it. Michael Jackson is six feet under - feel that, experience that, let the concept of his death flow through you until you can no longer deny it. Someone close to you died - everyone close to you will eventually die.

Here is a quote from a fan from the site to which I linked about Brittany Murphy:
"This is just tragic. I'm sick of everyone dying. 2009 is the worst year! I am saddened for her family and for the world of entertainment. Brittany Murphy was a find."

If I thought it appropriate to drop the f bomb on this blog, I would do it like this: You are a [f-bomb]ing moron! "I'm sick of everyone dying"? Seriously? Let the fact that "everyone" is dying remind you of your own mortality! Cherish it! Everybody WILL die! To say you're sick of that is akin to saying you're sick of everyone breathing. You're sick of everyone drinking water. You're sick of the inevitable.

Next time you're at a family function, whether you're sitting in a kitchen or living room or playing ping pong in the basement, look at the people around you and imagine them as corpses. Imagine their funeral. Imagine burying them in a cemetery. Imagine them gone forever. How does that make you feel? Once you've felt sad and gotten a little teary-eyed, realize that they are still there. They are still in your life. For the time being, they are alive and well, laughing and full of vigor. Joking with you. Talking with you. Yelling at you. Smiling at you.

But after all the smiles have faded, after all the tears have been cried, after all the songs have been sung, they will die.

Don't tear yourself up over it. Don't mull it over in your head for extended periods of time. Accept it. Embrace it. Love the fact that we're all mortal and our time is limited. If we were happy ALL the time, happy would be the new sad and we would need something more fulfilling.

Death is inevitable for a reason. Discover for yourself what that reason is and you'll find yourself a whole lot happier.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiny Indulgences

"I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumbnails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I bought a 12-pack of Mountain Dew at the grocery store today. Exciting, isn't it? Just stick with me on this one...I normally don't like to drink pop anymore (or soda, whatever you want to call it), but I felt inclined while strolling through the aisles of Giant Eagle. I picked it up about halfway through my aisle-filled adventure, so I had the other half of my shopping spree to ponder my impulsive choice. I hadn't bought a 12-pack of the Dew since college. So why now?

A large part of my evolving philosophy throughout my life has been to notice the smaller happenings, the minute developments throughout any given day; to appreciate the moments that can in no way be replicated by anybody else in any other situation via your perspective. When I graduated high school, and even college, I was not ecstatic. I didn't jump for joy. I stayed on my even keel of free-spiritedness and rolled with it. To prove my small point, here's what I specifically remember from my graduation:
  • The drinking fountain was out of water
  • Not sitting next to Barnes because the usher messed up the count
  • The smell of the girl sitting next to me (she smelled good)
  • The first bad joke of a great keynote speech
  • A soon-to-be co-worker I saw right after I walked
  • Not standing on the right spot when my picture was taken
  • Not moving my tassle over because I didn't want to...it's the small victories that count :)
For those of you who are married (or divorced), what are the things you remember most about your wedding? For those of you with kids, what do you remember most about them growing up? For those of you that have served in the military on the front lines, what do you remember most about a battle?

Sure, you'll have a recollection of the major events in your life, but chances are the major share of them will be lost in the wheel of time as your brain keeps turning and your body keeps moving forward. You'll remember the look your soon-to-be life partner gave you before you kissed on the altar. You'll remember the fear you felt when your kid rode his bike without training wheels for the first time. For the soldiers, you'll remember the first cigarette you smoked after your first gunfight. It's not the grand affairs that you'll vividly recall, but rather the small occurrences that happen within them.

Every day at work, one of my co-workers comes into my office and performs two back kicks. Weird? Maybe. Awesome? Quite. It's a small inside joke between the two of us, and it never gets old. Because one day one of us will quit, get fired or switch departments to where our offices won't be close enough anymore. But the back kicks, for as long as they're there...now that's a memory that will stick with me.

The real memories we make, the important, lifelong ones, belong to the unexpected, to the roll of the dice.

My 12-pack of Mountain Dew is something I remember from my college years. It was a small comfort, a tiny indulgence, and still is. It brings me to a place, much like a song can, that I can be content, if only for a moment, or a few minutes, or an hour.

What's your tiny indulgence? Your distant memory upon which you can reflect and smile.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Live Like We're Dying

"We only got 86, 400 seconds in a day to turn it all around or throw it all away."
-Kris Allen, "Live Like We're Dying"

(I knew where I was going when I started this blog post...just not sure where I ended up. Enjoy!)

One of the most prominent themes in my life, paraphrased at first by Tim McGraw when he spoke those words I first heard at the intersection of Lorain Road and Great Northern Boulevard: "And he said 'One day I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.'" Now brought back to light by Kris Allen in his first single. When compared according to quality, we're talking apples and oranges. Funny how two totally different things have the same end-result.

I wrote a short (very short) poem a couple weeks ago:

Live wild, live free
For what has come, let it be
For what will come, will be
Live wild, live free

Is this what it means to live like you're dying? I think it pitifully scrapes the surface, but it's a start. The way I look at it, you just gotta let it go. This is impossibly hard sometimes, but that's why we have the likes of Muhammad Ali to let us know that "Impossible is nothing!" Seriously, just...let...it...go.

It reminds me of a post I wrote more than a year ago: here.

Most anybody can understand the concept of living like you're dying. However, very few REALIZE how to do it. There's a very distinct difference. In order to realize how to live as if your life might end literally any second, I firmly believe you have to achieve Nirvana. But for us unenlightened fools, we can take a look at eastern philosophy (Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc.) for a start. You don't have to buy into it all, but trying to understand it is a good first step.

If you don't want to bother with eastern philosophy, go ahead and try this one for size:

Breathe the stale, breeze-less mid-afternoon air. Watch the cold, naked branches of trees caught in the clutches of February. Feel the cotton sheets as they stick to your sweat-soaked skin while you toss and turn during a sleepless night. Read a terrible book. Smell the worst gas you're significant other has ever emitted. Feel the itch of two-day-old sunburn in the middle of your back. Bend a fingernail backward. Listen to a baby wail in Denny's after you get cold food that turns to ash in your mouth because you're terrified of a phone call you have to make later that day. And above all......

......revel in it. For it won't happen again. You are alive. For such a brief interlude in time. A brief flicker of a candle among a roaring forest fire. That's all you are. Just make sure to burn.

With desire, with passion,
with your hatred for fashion.
With purpose, without answers
no one to help when your hands hurt.

With freedom, self-reliance,
with painstaking compliance.
With direction, with strides,
that stretch a mile wide.

Be powerful. Be humble. Be present.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Little Creative Spirit

"The opposite of war isn't peace. It's creation."
-Mark, from the musical Rent

We all have a little creative spirit in us. Whether you consciously or unknowingly tap it, it's there. The hard part is learning how to foster it. How to cultivate it. How to nurture it and watch it grow. And because it's hard is what makes it so worthwhile.

Of one thing I am convinced - you will never accomplish anything noteworthy unless you tap into this creativity and listen to the voice that speaks to you and you alone. This creativity can manifest itself in countless forms - literally countless.
  • A campaign slogan
  • The Post-It Note
  • A marketing plan
  • The light bulb
  • A stand-up comedian
  • A one-liner you create on the spot
  • The cotton gin
  • A new filing system for purchase orders
  • The comb-over (I mean really, who thought of that?)
  • A dick in a box
  • A simple sentence, with all its commas, prepositional phrases and direct objects
  • A dance routine
  • Mathematical equations - bringing to mind the concept of creativity within a set of rules
  • A different way of saying something that's been said a thousand times before
Clear your mind of the useless mental chatter. The creativity will flow through you if you can do your best to stop unconscious thought. It sounds hard because it is. You must learn to think literally of nothing, or at least of nothing besides what you're creating (and even then, limit the number of thoughts).

When I write, I let the pencil guide my hand. I'll begin a scene and have a general idea of where it's going to end up, but the details along the way are decided by the characters, not me. I've had a scene change its course entirely because of one hand motion from a minor character. I've had a good character turn out to be evil because of something she said. And I've had one minor character take on a leading role because I discovered, during a battle scene, that he was in love with the main female protagonist.

Messed up, I know. But each twist and turn happened when I let the pencil in my hand move of its own free will; when I started the idea and ran with whatever popped into this ol' brain of mine. Only because I was able to clear it and focus on nothing but my writing. On nothing but what I wanted to create.

The greatest minds are the ones with original thought. But originality requires creativity. And creativity represents part of the essence of what defines us as human.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Different Paths


"There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart."
-Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, author of the Tao Te Ching, founder of Taoism

This past weekend I made a big decision (please note I will not tell you what it was - get over it). I made a phone call, did the deed and hung up. That was supposed to be it. I was supposed to be able to walk away from what I did with no cause for alarm. But for the next two hours, my stomach wouldn't stop twisting itself into knots. I was helping a friend of mine assemble a futon and I couldn't concentrate during the simple act of screwing in a bolt, I was in such a daze. Something in my gut was telling me that I did something wrong, that this was something I would lose sleep over, that what I did was not the way things were actually supposed to be. For two hours I let this gut-wrenching continue until I decided to do something about it. I called back and undid the deed. I then proceeded to sleep like a baby.

For some reason, this brings to the forefront of my mind the concept of fate vs. free will. Which line of thinking is the truer?
  • Are we predestined at the moment of our birth with no way to alter our course?
  • Do the decisions we make along life's road alter our destiny, with different paths leading to different end-results based on our actions?
  • Or is there no such thing as predetermined results? Maybe free will, coincidence and luck govern our lives, all actions and reactions based solely on chance.
It's an age-old argument, and one I doubt this blog post will settle.

Why did I get that gut-wrenching feeling that I did something wrong, making me call a second time? I've said this before, but I'm a guy who goes with his gut. When faced with major life-altering decisions, many people make pros and cons lists, debating the benefits and drawbacks of one course of action over another. That's all well and good for the analytical sort, of which I tend not to be. If my gut tells me I should do something, I do it - the same goes for the negative form of that statement. This past weekend, my instincts were screaming at me that I had messed up. So I listened.

I'm a believer of the second above bullet point, myself. I believe there is such a thing as fate, although not necessarily holding to any religious, dogmatic perception of predestination. However, I think you can change your fate when life-altering turning points are encountered. Think of it as a path through a forest. You start off on one singular path, but along the way many paths branch off of that singular one, and even more off of those. The small, everyday decisions don't necessarily turn you down another way, but the big ones can change your course as surely as you were born: what college you attend, what jobs you take, how you treat your body, what friends you associate with, who you date, who you marry and so on and so forth.

The gut-wrenching feeling I got after I made that first phone call was an indicator to me that I should not have done what I did. That I pissed off the cosmos and altered my fate, but not for the better. Hence, the second phone call.

I am meant for something, just as you are. Maybe I'm fulfilling that "destiny" as I write this blog post, or as I drive to work every day, or as I talk to my girlfriend at night. Maybe I'm just ambling along toward it, not having fulfilled my full purpose. Regardless, I'm going to listen to my gut/heart/instincts - whatever you want to call it - and trust them to guide me along my journey.

And during the journey, I must continue telling myself to "be present."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why So Serious?

"Get stuck in the never-ending drama (worrying about what irrelevant people think) and you'll never get anything done."
-Seth Godin, author, marketing expert

We all need to lighten up. We take ourselves way too seriously for our own good. Half the things we freak out about don't mean shit in the long run. So it begs the question...why so serious?

I read a blog post by Seth Godin the other day that talked about high school, explaining that the "winners" (which I took to mean the popular kids) were the ones who didn't take high school too seriously. Now some might argue that the popular kids weren't the winners - the whole idea of how the nerd in high school will one day be the football captain's boss in the work world - but I disagree to an extent.

During my tenure in high school, I found myself somewhere in the middle of the nerd and the popular kid. I had one large group of friends (my posse) plus smaller pockets of friends scattered across the social spectrum - from the nerds and bandos in the AP classes to the jocks and punk rock princesses in the general - so I feel I had a pretty wide range of social interaction to give me a fair vantage point. Thus, I will conclude that the popular kids were the winners, not the nerds who buried themselves in books and got a 4.2 GPA. Why? Because the popular kids successfully lived in the moment, at least moreso in comparison to the bookworms. The popular kids, the winners, made the memories on which they can look back fondly.

A microcosm of this theory: One night I was nose deep in some 800-page, hard-bound book studying for a test in God knows what class. I got a phone call from four of my closest friends saying they were going to drive around town playing strip padiddle and wanted me to come. I respectfully declined their tempting offer, choosing a pedantic night over their joy-riding. Looking back, you know what I remember about that test? Nothing. Not the class, not the grade, not the teacher. Not even the night of studying. What could I have remembered from that night? Dave, Katie, Jacquie and Shannon half-naked in a minivan driving around North Olmsted for no other purpose than to prove to ourselves that we were alive...yep, not sure I would have forgotten that. To this day I can still tell you who was in what car seat when they pulled up to my house to coerce me into joining. I remember who was more naked than the others.

They were the winners that night. Not me.

Now I'm not saying "Don't ever study. Go out and have fun every chance you get." There just comes a time where you should say, as I often tell my students, "Fuck it." Recognize what matters in the long run.

If you find yourself overanalyzing everything, take a step back. If you find yourself a little too OCD for even the most catatonic schizophrenic, chill out and go sit in your favorite chair.

But the next time four of your best friends pull up in a minivan half naked and laughing hysterically, think about what you'll remember five years down the road...and get in the damn car!

Monday, July 06, 2009

My Mentor: Experience

"We must all fear evil men. But there is one evil that we must fear most...and that is, the indifference of good men."
-Priest, Boondock Saints

Does everyone suffer from overpowering fits of apathy, or is it just me? There are times in my life, albeit few and far between, where I just feel...well...nothing. I don't give a shit about anything. I had about a three-day spree of that pretty recently. I didn't want to write. I didn't want to go out. When I did go out, I didn't want to talk to anybody. I didn't want to listen to music. I didn't want to learn anything. I saw the negative in absolutely everything. For the first time in years, I was actually bored. And I never get bored.

I always preach about appreciating the small things in life. So when I don't practice what I preach, when I don't realize the very things I write about in this blog and talk about during my daily life, I become a hypocrite. And hypocrisy is one of the worst sorts of crimes.

But right after I came out of this atypical fit of apathy, a strange thing happened. I got a Facebook friend request from someone I met this past winter. When I went to check out her profile (I always enjoy reading people's quotes) I found a quote that summarized the exact reason that helped me snap out of it. Odd timing, but fateful maybe? Please excuse the cliche feel that is about to overcome you:

"The grand essentialls of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
-Allan K. Chalmers

The cynic in me can find many things wrong in this quote and can pick it apart, demonstrating why it is invariably false. But the idealist in me accepts it wholeheartedly. And at the moment I think I'm an idealist...for now, anyway... but I'm a happy cynic when I am one (NOTE: please ignore the contradiction inherent in that statement).

What helped me snap out of my apathetic state was that I came to realize what it is we all must fight during our daily act of living - we must combat boredom. Above all else, we must avoid being bored at all costs. Find a way to stay active, to stay mentally fresh. This is not a new concept by any means. In fact, when I came to my realization regarding apathy and boredom, I looked up the concept and found hundreds of quotes on the topic:

"The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."
-Saul Steinberg, cartoonist for The New Yorker

"Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings."
-Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher

"Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
-Virginia Woolf, novelist

And so in this last quote we have the reason for the inducement of my apathetic state - I needed to come to this conclusion on my own...the conclusion that boredom is my enemy. Something to be combated. Something to avoid. Something to stomp the life out of lest it permeate all aspects of your life.

I have something to do. I have something to love. And I have something to hope for.

Your best teacher, your best mentor, your best coach, is your own experience.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Before, After and Thank You

"It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse."
-Ann Trason



Notice the hat at the end there. I ran the entire 26.2 miles with that horseshoe haircut, so I wasn't showing it off a second longer than I had to after the race! You probably can't tell too much of a difference between the before and after besides the hair, but I was absolutely exhausted after the race.

The first 13 miles went swimmingly - aside from the bowel movements at mile 5 :) - then between 13 and 18 I was just trying to keep my mile time under 10 minutes. Once I hit mile 22 I felt like death was coming for me....no, not really, but I was hurting. I was essentially waddling at mile 24, no lies. Then just before mile 25 I got a burst of motivation (not energy - motivation), and took off, running an 8.30 pace for about the last mile and a half. My time ended up being 4.20, while my goal was 3.40. But after the race I didn't give a damn what my time was - I was just glad I had finished!

The ending was incredibly inspirational - running about a quarter of a mile with people cheering you on from all sides (even if you did have a bad haircut). The journey to the end was just as inspirational as the finish, though, with more than 30 people donating to autism research, raising a total of $1,074.82. Our own group within the Organization for Autism Research raised more than $10,000, the best out of any OAR group in the marathon. Woot!

Thank you to everyone who donated, and everyone who offered moral support throughout my training and fundraising. It was very neat to see the outpouring of support via Twitter, Facebook, phone calls, text messaging, and at the marathon, itself. People offered advice when they had no vested interest in my marathon, whatsoever, and for that I thank them.

But most of all, a big thanks to my sister Jessie. While she initially tried to dissuade me from doing the full marathon, she and my dad were the initial catalysts that got me into training and helped motivate me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. If she wouldn't have formed our OAR group and essentially ordered me to come to the first meeting, I probably never would have helped raise more than $10,000 for autism research, nor run a full marathon. So thanks sis!

And once again, a big thank you to everyone who helped me along the way. Without your support, there never would have been a young, dumb 22-year-old running his first race longer than a 5K with a horseshoe haircut.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Marathon Training and Hairstyles

"Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like."
-Anonymous, and definitely more for women...but that's OK



The smallest donation helps. As little as $5 goes a long way toward helping further the cause of autism research, helping scientists prescribe better treatments and giving parents more resources with which to learn about their child's syndrome as well as how to cope with and manage it.

Visit my donation page here to donate or click on the widget at the top right of this screen. And just for review, here are the categories of hair styles:

Up to 20% - comb over
Up to 24% - Nick Carter
Up to 28% - mohawk
Up to 35% - cowboy hat
Over 35% - horseshoe, just like Papa Hirz featured in the above video

Follow me on Twitter @JHirz and stay tuned for more updates and a couple more videos for your viewing pleasure. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

$2100 In 21 Days

"Impossible is nothing."
- Muhammad Ali

Can it be done? You have to decide...



I am raising money for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) by running the Cleveland Marathon on May 17. Recent statistics tell us that autism strikes 1 in 150 children born these days. Four years ago it was 1 in 166. Fifteen years ago it was 1 in 500. Twenty-four years ago it was 1 in 5,000. The situation is worsening, which is why research needs to match the pace at which this brain disorder's diagnoses are increasing. We need your help - and that's no lie.

OAR is an organization that allows runners to help their cause by obtaining friends' and family members' financial support through online donations. You can see mine at www.firstgiving.com/jeffhirz (or click on the widget in the right sidebar).

Things to watch out for on this blog in the coming week(s):
  • An update on how I will cut my hair for race day based on how much money is raised
  • An update on calling out Twitter celebrities to match the amount of money raised at the end (a long shot, but it can't hurt the cause - only embarrass me, which I can handle)
  • Weekly updates on my "training" and how well it's going...similar to what you just watched
Follow me on Twitter @JHirz for more updates as the weeks progress leading up to the Cleveland Marathon.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Great Expectations

"Our lives are shaped not as much by our experience, as by our expectations."
-George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, socialist



Consider...

...your life up until this point. How old are you? 22? 35? 57? When you were younger did you picture yourself at where you are at this moment? Did you see yourself sitting in front of your computer, reading some nobody's blog post only because you're excruciatingly bored? Probably not.

Consider...

...your situation. Are you married? Are you in a bachelor pad? Are you in college? Are you employed? Do you have a friend you could call right now if you really needed to talk to someone? Now ask - is this where you saw your life taking you when you were younger? What did you expect? I know I didn't expect to be back living with my parents at the ripe old age of 22, sitting at the same desk I sat at when I was 10, listening to David Cook and writing a blog post I think maybe six people will read (sucks for you, I know, realizing you're one of six people who read this crap).

Consider...

...the last movie you saw. What were your expectations going in to the theater (or turning on Hulu)? Were you really excited? Did it live up to your expectations and then fall just short, thereby making it a lesser experience? Or did you not expect anything and realized at the end that you were pleasantly surprised?

I prefer to be one of the latter. I go through life trying to limit my expectations. Not out of fear. Not out of cowardice. Out of a realization that you should go into everything with an open mind, and also that life rarely lives up to expectations. And when it does, most times it's just for a few seconds (a kiss) or minutes (a song) or hours (sex...if you have the stamina) or days (weekend vacation) or months (a new job) and then you're back to square one of your emotional rubik's cube. This sounds pessimistic, it sounds depressing, but it's true.

You graduate college. You come off the high of finishing the ride, having lived your college experience to the fullest. You have a job. You go into this job high on life - your life is beginning!! This is it!! I can't wait to see where I go and what I do and how successful I am and who I marry and..........WTF? I'm 30 already? Son of a bitch!

Did the past eight or nine years of your life live up to what you saw as you crossed the stage at graduation, taking the diploma from a man in a luxurious robe whom you've probably never met? Was your 9-5 your dream job? Was it what you wanted to do at the time? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you had good days and maybe you had bad days. I don't know - but you do.

I would like to share some truths with you that may depress you, but should ultimately make you happier once you come to accept them for the reality they represent:
  • Life is not one continuous stream of happiness - get used to it
  • Life is disjointed - you'll be happy one minute, sad the next, then feel nothing. why?
  • Your mind is your enemy - you must learn to control it or you will lose control of your own thoughts, of your own actions
  • Your thoughts shackle your heart - free your mind and let your heart be the bellwether of your life
You want to achieve greatness. We all do. But in order to achieve greatness, you have to be working toward it in the present. Each moment of your life is irreplaceable, so be present for it as much as possible.

By telling you to expect less I'm not saying to not chase your dreams and reach for the stars and all that mumbo jumbo. Start small with this, clear your mind of preconceived notions and expectations, and see where it gets you - I have a feeling you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Damn Good Marketing

"Marketing is what you do when your product is no good."
- Edwin Land, scientist and inventor

For those of you who don't know, I have been working for the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland for just over four months now. In my time there I've done a fair amount of work with the Cleveland Browns, what with them being our next-door neighbors, literally, it's hard not to have interaction. A fine group of people, I must say, and more so after the events that transpired today.

They sent me a free Browns hoodie.

That's the hook. Right there.

I'm not a sports fan. I can watch sports and comment intelligently (unless I'm watching with my cousin or with Barnes - the latter has a blog completely dedicated to the topic), but I definitely do not look forward to Sunday afternoons sitting in front of my new plasma TV for hours on end watching game after game after game. Not necessarily my idea of paradise, unlike others I might name.

So I get this package sitting at my desk first thing in the morning today. Upon discovery of my new-found outerwear, my heart is immediately warmed. BAM! Mission accomplished. That's the best form of marketing I've seen in years. It should be every PR and marketing professional's goal to create that heart-warming feeling within their target audience.

My perception of the Browns brand prior to this - crappy team going through change.

My perception of the Browns brand since this - crappy team going through change...whose games I may or may not attend next season.

OK, so maybe they didn't exactly change my perception of the team, but it did make me feel more inclined to go to a game next season.

Now that's just damn good marketing.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wild at Heart

"And die of nothing but a rage to live."
-Alexander Pope

What is the purpose of this exact moment of your existence? Not today. Not tomorrow. NOW!

I know what some of you are thinking - "Oh God, this is so f-in cliche." Some people already probably navigated away from this page. I'm over it...

But sometimes we just get so embroiled in the petty aspects of our lives that we forget to think about the bigger picture...we forget to philosophize every now and then. A little philosophy every now and then never killed anybody...I hope.

I think the new song by Gloriana - and subsequently the title of this post - sums up a certain aspect of what life is. While many of us may not be able to do the things we've always wanted to do - travel to Italy, buy a beach house, marry the man or woman of our dreams - it's important to stay wild at heart.



The way I interpret it is this: Don't lose that child-like quality of reckless abandon. Just roll with it.

Think about the ocean. Ebbing and flowing and roiling with the tides, it never stops moving. Constant motion, not standing for any interruptions, like the flow of time it rolls on. Yet we seem to feel the need to segment it. We've assigned labels to each one - Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, etc. We name currents and can show on maps where they start and where they stop, when in fact they do neither.

It's all interconnected. It's all one giant ocean, not separate entities or stopping and starting points. Each drop of water is just as important as the next. Where one wave ends another begins. When that wave crashes into the Atlantic shoreline, droplets of water are pulled underneath the next incoming wave and flow back out to sea. Maybe those droplets will end up in the Caribbean or move north to freeze in the Arctic. It doesn't matter. It all flows together. As one body. The master of fluidity - in effect being the definition of the word.

That's what we need to be. We need to be fluid. Relaxed. Wild like the ocean. We need to learn to just roll with it. Kind of like this video from a couple years ago - sorry about it being sideways (DISCLAIMER: this was NOT me! haha)-


OK, back to serious contemplation..... :)

When you get mad or sad, it's as a result of something. Something causes you to feel that emotion. When we feel either of those emotions, it's because we wish something wouldn't have happened the way it did. We wish it could have been different so we wouldn't feel that emotion. Someone offends you. Someone doesn't do something you think they should do. Someone ignores you. Someone dies.

Ever present. That's what we have to strive to be. Resist the incessant chatter of our minds and truly, truly live in the moment. As I've said before, it is what it is, so just roll with it.

Because we all need to just free fall for a while.

So stay child-like. Stay a little bit reckless.

Stay wild at heart.

Oh, and don't forget to crank that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hit Bottom With Me

"The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club."
- Tyler Durden

I just finished reading the book Fight Club. Can't decide what I liked better, the movie or the book. Regardless, both have amazing one-liners. The book has more than the movie, although the movie is a bit easier to follow. Lessons can be gleaned from any book you read - whether they're life lessons, lessons on how to build a bomb, or lessons on how not to write a book - Chuck Palahniuk fulfills the first two. Did you know if you drill a hole in a light bulb, fill the bulb with gasoline, plug the hole with wax or silicone, then screw it back in, you've just created a bomb? All it takes is a thrown switch.

But, for obvious reasons, that's not the lesson on which I'd like to direct my focus. The life lessons in this book we call "Fight Club" are pretty all-encompassing. Sure, Tyler takes it to the extreme by killing the protagonist's boss and the mayor's special envoy on recycling (not in the movie), plus blowing up buildings...you know, stuff like that. But as crazy and far-fetched as the man may be, I think he represents a little bitty piece of all of us, lying hidden deep in the recesses of our tumbling synapses, that just wants to say "Fuck it all."

I won't go into my rant on the slaves some of us can be made into by society and its expectations, but I will highlight 10 of my favorite "Fight Club" quotes that I feel represent various parts of our tiny lives.

(NOTE: My end-thoughts on all this are at the end of the post, so if you get bored with the quotes, skip on down to the "In summation" portion.)

Quotes that make you want to quit your job

"You do the little job you're trained to do.
Pull a lever.
Push a button.
You don't understand any of it, and then you just die."
- A little depressing, I'd say, but aren't we all just trained, through education or some other avenue, how to do a job that will make us money that will let us live a "normal" life?

"Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need."
- Do you really need that $300 Coach purse, that $2,500 50" plasma television with built-in digital and analog tuners, or the couch cushions with the strinne green stripe pattern?

"Getting fired is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading water and do something with our lives."
- Think deep and hard about this and ask yourself if this is true of you...

Quotes that make you want to "hit bottom"

"One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection."
- This is one of the best lines in the book and happens when the protagonist meets Tyler Durden (he didn't meet him on the airplane). Don't buy into that bullcrap where people tell you "life is perfect." It's not. Get used to it. Even one of the Buddhists' key mantra is "life is suffering." Get over the fact that your life will not be one long, continuous stream of perfection and you'll find yourself a little bit happier more and more often.

"Losing all hope was freedom."
- Don't knock it til you try it. You'd be surprised how true this is. Learn to not expect anything and you'll always be pleasantly surprised.

"If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't."
- Valid.

"Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything."
- The best quote in the movie and the book, bar none.

Quotes that make you ponder death

"You melt and swell at that moment. For that moment, nothing matters. Look up at the stars and you're gone. Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not your bad breath. The windows are dark outside and the horns are blaring around you. The headlights are flashing high and low and high in your face, and you will never have to go to work again."
- Stop fretting about the little, inconsequential shit in your life and look around.

"This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time."
- Tick, tock, tick, tock...

"Raymond K.K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life."
- A very memorable scene in the movie where Tyler takes a mini-mart cashier and threatens his life unless he starts working toward his passions, this quote defines that scene, although a little bit of the quote is changed in translation to the silver screen. Raymond's dinner will taste better because he realizes he might not have been eating it had he been shot outside of the mini-mart. Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of his entire life because he is finally on the road toward doing what he loves, not lying stagnant in a dead-end job where his passions become fruitless and his creativity is stifled, leaving him an empty shell of a human being, whose only signs of life are the fact that he walks, eats and breathes. Our life is one long epic battle against stagnation.

"If people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention."
- If only people really realized that we are all dying and that exact moment may be the last one you spend with the person...cliche, but likewise valid.

"Marla's philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she doesn't."
- Just brilliantly written.

Quotes that make you want to tell society to screw off

"For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil.
And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born."

"Project Mayhem will force humanity to go dormant or into remission long enough for the Earth to recover."

"Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you."
- In the movie this turns into the bar scene quote where Tyler says, "The things you own end up owning you."

Other memorable quotes

"Until today, it really pissed me off that I'd become this totally centered Zen Master and nobody had noticed."

"I just don't want to die without a few scars, I say...someday I'd be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car."

"After you've been to fight club, watching football on television is watching pornography when you could be having great sex."

"Ever since college, I make friends. They get married. I lose friends."

"What Marla loves, she says, is all the things that people love intensely and then dump an hour or a day after. The way a Christmas tree is the center of attention, then, after Christmas you see those dead Christmas trees with the tinsel still on them, dumped alongside the highway."

In summation...

I met a guy at the Westlake YMCA locker room tonight. He works at a nearby Nissan dealership and is serving at his post 6-7 days a week, selling people hunks of steel, leather and rubber all day long. He asks me, "So what do you do? You seem too mild-mannered a guy to be a black belt teaching people how to snap vertebrae." I laugh heartily, thoroughly humored by the misconceptions and Paul Bunyan theories cast upon me over the years. I tell him he knows how to break a neck just as well as I do - the American cinema is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

I tell him he should join. He seems eager to do something more extracurricular and I can tell I've piqued his interest with just my uniform...but he barely has time to make it to the gym as it is, he says - he had just gotten there and had to leave in 20 minutes. The demands of work and a family keep him pretty tied up. He got this look of sorrow and resignation on his face that made me want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him as hard as I could, waking him up to a more conscious life than he's living now. Sounds a bit harsh, I know :). But he can come to my martial arts class if he wanted to - he's just afraid to change his routine. He feels trapped. People like that need to feel empowered to make a change in their lives. We all need to feel empowered. Not power over others, just power over our own actions, over own lives. If we are powerless to control our own lives, we are slaves.

I, for one, refuse to be a slave.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Progressive Conversation

Check out my buddy's blog below in response to my previous post, "Progress - For Good or For Ill?" Tune into the comments, as well. Join in the conversation! It can get kind of boring when it's just two people!

Hakuna Matata

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Progress - For Good or ill?

“Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. Isn't that what we're told? Yes, progress is good, or so the American mentality tells us - always pursuing our "manifest destiny," right? Progressive thinking is a mentality that is thrust upon us from an early age. And, I daresay, progressive thinking is many times what separates the intelligent from the obtuse, the achiever from the accomplishmentless (I just made that word up). While this mindset can and should be perceived as a good thing, I think we're reaching a watershed in human history where progress may NOT be such a good thing...allow me to elaborate.

Since the early- to mid-1940s, the world has seen constant improvement in the overall global economy, technological advances and democratic ideals. The people of the world now are richer than we have ever been in our short history (this is stated as a generality, obviously). Broader portions of the population are living more comfortably than ever before and are wealthier than our ancestors in centuries past. Technology has advanced to the point where we barely have to exert any effort to work our 9-5's - I heard a statistic once that the average white-collar worker doesn't walk farther than the length of a football field in a day. Not hard to believe if you really think about it. We have quick-service restaurants that can serve us up our meals in less than three minutes while we wait. We have cars and planes that can transport us hundreds of miles in a matter of hours. We can communicate with people across the globe with the click of a button. And a democratic ideal, brought to modern light by forward thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and culminating in the formation of the United States (a mere stepping stone), has launched into a full-scale world-view, accepted by the lion's share of present-day nations. The average person now has a say in the governments that represent them, even people who know absolutely nothing of politics or what goes on outside their state's borders (coughSarahPalincough).

So now I ask you: Is this all a good thing? I think as a general whole, the people of the world are far better off than they have been in the past. But certain things disturb me...let's call them "The Byproducts of Progress."

NOTE: I polled 15 people on what they thought the negative byproducts of progress were, and the top five listed here came up in 14 out of 15 responses...there was no margin of error....this was a non-scientific - and non-random - poll.

Byproduct #1: Pollution
This was the first one that came to mind. As was stated before, we have cars and planes that can transport us almost anywhere in the world in mere hours. If I wanted to, I could be rock-climbing in the Urals or swimming in the Mediterranean by tomorrow afternoon. But at what cost? How much toxic fume would my car emit as I drove to the airport? How much thinner would the ozone layer be because of the trans-oceanic airplane I would ride in? We're told not to go running in urban areas in hot weather because the smog is too heavy. Sport utility vehicles blanket the roadways, emitting almost twice the toxic fumes than the average four-person car. Global warming has become more than a political hot-button in the past twenty years - it's became a life-threatening liability...one that will have to be dealt with soon. And what happens when the natural resources we exploit to give us such advanced transportation run dry? What happens when the oil reserves are the ones filling our tanks? Anybody ever seen Mad Max?

Byproduct #2: Weapons of Warfare
The nuclear bomb...I want someone to tell me that is a positive byproduct of progress. Please, muster the balls and the arrogance to say weapons of mass destruction are good things.

Byproduct #3: Social Ineptitude
With the introduction of cell phones, texting, social networks like Facebook and MySpace (and user-generated content like blogging!), and various forms of instant messaging, we have come to rely on technology to do our communication for us. As much as I love social media and the opportunities it represents from a communications standpoint (that is my chosen profession, after all), I feel that in a way it does diminish the effectiveness of our daily interactions. Granted, we can now stay in touch with hundreds and thousands of people who we would have forgotten about years down the road or never met in the first place - no one can deny that as an advantage. But when, instead of talking with someone face-to-face, you have a conversation via text message or AIM, the value of interpersonal communication is greatly diminished. I can't tell you how many times I had arguments over instant message in high school (and maybe once or twice in college...). I think I even once told a girl I wasn't interested in her anymore over instant message - try seeing that person every day in the unforgiving corridors of high school!

But seriously, how effective are typed words on a computer screen? How much more effective would this blog be if I could talk one-on-one with you about these issues? Facial expressions, variations in pitch and tone, hand gestures, the look in the person's eyes when they say something or react to something you say - all of these are lost via text message, instant message, Facebook, etc. How can you really grasp what someone is trying to say just by looking at words on a screen?

There's so many pitfalls with electronic communication that I can't even try to enumerate them. I think Donald Keough, the former president of the Coca-Cola company, says it best in his new book, The Ten Commandments for Business Failure:

"As we continue, however, to transform the nature of human interaction, we come very close to electronic sensory overload coupled with human sensory deprivation. The simple interaction of one human being with another is being lost."

Byproduct #4: Over-reliance
What would happen if every single computer on this earth stopped working tomorrow? What would happen if you went to sleep in the Information Age and woke up in the Dark Ages? Ponder that scenario and tell me technological progress is a good thing. Granted, it’s a “what-if” scenario – but then again, why were we so scared of Y2K?

Byproduct #5: Sloth (voted #1 byproduct of progress by viewers like you)
Who needs to do work anymore these days? Nowadays we have machines to do our work for us. We have computers to think in our stead. We have calculators to do our long division. We have social networking sites that allow us to send someone a message instead of give them a call or see them in person. Taking the time to think is no longer required for daily communication. We have become slaves to immediate gratification. The faster the better. Few things are really worth waiting for anymore.

Byproduct #6: Overpopulation
Ever hear of Malthusian Doom? I just think it's an interesting theory. The overpopulation byproduct is not immediately prevalent except in China where families are limited to one child per couple, but at some point in the far future, if the increasing population continues to grow at its current pace, we may have to think about sending more than Spirit and Opportunity to Mars.

-End list of byproducts-

Despite the recent economic downturn, human history is reaching a crescendo in the new millennium. I strongly feel that at some point in the next 50 years, progress is going to experience a conceptual reversal at every level of society. Because there's something to keep in mind about progress…if two people who are walking come upon a fork in the road and head the same direction, only to discover that to be the wrong direction, isn’t the one who turns around first more progressive?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Radio Ga Ga

Let's hope you never leave old friend; like all good things on you we depend; so stick around cause we might miss you; when we grow tired of all this visual.
- Queen

In the ever-transient world of broadcast we have seen an increasing trend away from commercial interruptions (this statement should be utterly obvious to anybody reading this that you actually think, if not say, "Duh."). We have Radio XM, TiVo, DVR, Sirius, and numerous other entities that allow the user to bypass any commercial advertising or those frivolous weather forecasts that are only right 70 percent of the time anyway. Thus, we are slowly but surely losing the traditional radio stations with which we grew up. Am I the only one that finds this sad?

I'm not saying we all revert back to traditional radio stations - God knows I've had great times listening to an iPod for an entire nine-hour car ride or being able to pick and choose songs without having to listen to terrible McDonald's or Burger King commercials. However, I think we are missing a certain element to living when we have everything work out so perfectly. We get rid of the possibility of imperfections during our listening experience. And as I always preach, without the presence of imperfection we take the good things for granted. That's just another reason why imperfection is such a perfect thing.

The randomness and imperfection of radio can easily translate to the unpredictability of our daily lives. When we wake up every morning, we can decide on a general outline of how our day will proceed, but we can't pick the little nuances, the tiny, minute details that will riddle our day and change the course of our thoughts and deeds. Similarly, we can turn on a radio station that plays the kind of music we like, but we can't pick the songs the DJ will play. We may turn on our favorite hip-hop and R&B station and hope to hear "Love in this Club", only to hear "Booty Bounce" - do they even play that song anymore? To sum it up: we can pick the station, but we can't pick the song.

Radio XM and Sirius do away with that randomness, that quicksilver feeling of unpredictability. That's a shame, if you ask me (which you didn't). I mean, is it really a good thing to be able to customize everything in our daily lives? Doesn't anybody think that little sense of mystery, of not knowing what's going to come next, is a good thing? I know I'm blowing up radio when I compare it to all these larger aspects of life, but it's all just part of a trend toward customization. Thus, we come to my next post...stay tuned.