How Small People Make A Big Difference

Small People Make Big Differences

Repression

Today, as I was relaxing at the beach, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation four high school kids were having on the beach blanket next to me.  Their conversation was about making a positive difference in the world.  And it went something like this…

“It’s impossible to make a difference unless you’re a huge corporation or someone with lots of money and power,” one of them said.

“Yeah man,” another replied.  “My mom keeps telling me to move mountains – to speak up and stand up for what I believe.  But what I say and do doesn’t even get noticed.  I just keep answering to ‘the man’ and then I get slapped back in place by him when I step out of line.”

“Repression…” another snickered.

I smiled because I knew exactly how they felt.  When I was their age, I was certain I was being repressed and couldn’t possibly make a difference in this world.  And I actually almost got expelled from school once because I openly expressed how repressed I felt in the middle of the principals’ office.

I Have A Dream

Suddenly, one of the kids noticed me eavesdropping and smiling.  He sat up, looked at me and said, “What?  Do you disagree?”  Then as he waited for a response, the other three kids turned around too.

Rather than arguing with them, I took an old receipt out of my wallet, ripped it into four pieces, and wrote a different word on each piece.  Then I crumbled the pieces into little paper balls and handed a different piece to each one of them.

“Look at the word on the paper I just gave you and don’t show it to anyone else.”  The kids looked at the single word I had handed each of them and appeared confused.  “You have two choices,” I told them.  “If your word inspired you to make a difference in this world, then hold onto it.  If not, give it back to me so I can recycle the paper.”  They all returned their words.

I scooted over, sat down on the sand next to their beach blanket and laid out the four words that the students had returned to me so that the words combined to form the simple sentence, “I have a dream.”

“Dude, that’s Martin Luther King Jr.,” one of the kids said.

“How did you know that?” I asked.

“Everyone knows Martin Luther King Jr.” the kid snarled.  “He has his own national holiday, and we all had to memorize his speech in school a few years ago.”

“Why do you think your teachers had you memorize his speech?” I asked

“I don’t really care!” the kid replied.  His three friends shook their heads in agreement.  “What does this have to do with us and our situation?”

“Your teachers asked you to memorize those words, just like thousands of teachers around the world have asked students to memorize those words, because they have inspired millions of repressed people to dream of a better world and take action to make their dreams come true.  Do you see where I’m going with this?”

“Man, I know exactly what you’re trying to do and it’s not going to work, alright?” the fourth kid said, who hadn’t spoken a word until now.  “We’re not going to get all inspired and emotional about something some dude said thirty years ago.  Our world is different now.  And it’s more screwed up than any us can even begin to imagine, and there’s little you or I can do about it.  We’re too small, we’re nobody.”

Together

I smiled again because I once believed and used to say similar things.  Then after holding the smile for a few seconds I said, “On their own, ‘I’ or ‘have’ or ‘a’ or ‘dream’ are just words.  Not very compelling or inspiring.  But when you put them together in a certain order, they create a phrase that has been powerful enough to move millions of people to take action – action that changed laws, perceptions, and lives.  You don’t need to be inspired or emotional to agree with this, do you?”

The four kids shrugged and struggled to appear totally indifferent, but I could tell they were listening intently.  “And what’s true for words is also true for people,” I continued.  “One person without help from anyone else can’t do much to make a sizable difference in this crazy world – or to overcome all of the various forms of repression that exist today.  But when people get together and unite to form something more powerful and meaningful then themselves, the possibilities are endless.

Together is how mountains are moved.  Together is how small people make a big difference.

Photo by: Milivoj Sherrington

A Bedtime Memory Building Exercise

Bedtime Memory Building Mind Hack

If knowledge is power and your mind is the container of this knowledge, then the more you improve your mind’s memory capacity, the more knowledge your mind will retain and the more power you will have at your disposal.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.  😉

Anyway, over the last six months I have been practicing a particular bedtime memory building exercise every night before I fall asleep.  And it’s really been working wonders for me.  In this short time, I’ve noticed that I’m now able to remember smaller moments in my days, and instantly recollect details from these moments that I used to completely forget.

In a nutshell, here’s the memory building exercise:

Every night, as you’re lying in bed ready to fall asleep, review what you did during the day from start to finish in as much detail as you can possibly remember.  Start with the exact moment you woke up and got out of bed and finish with the moment that just passed as you laid back down in your bed.  Visualize every single detail in your mind, each and every step you took in sequential order from beginning to end as if you were watching a video recap of your day.

The first few times you do this, you may be surprised with how few details you can remember.  You’ll likely jump quickly through your recollection of the day from one major event or block of time to the next without recalling any of the meticulous details from the smaller moments contained within those larger time blocks.

But after just a few short weeks of practicing this exercise, you’ll notice an obvious improvement in your memory and you’ll gradually get better and better recalling even the minutest details from your day.  Your goal should be to grow your memory to the point where you can visualize the particulars present in every scene of every waking moment over the course of the day – the conversations you had, the people who were present at the time, the song that was playing on the radio, the billboards and people you saw when you were walking or driving home, etc.

And although I usually fall asleep long before I completely recap my day (this is totally normal), after six months of routinely practicing this memory building exercise, I have noticed the following benefits:

  • My memory has improved, especially my ability to recollect the minute details present in various situations over the course of a day, week, month, or longer period of time.
  • I’m living more in the moment.  I’m now more observant and aware of how I’m spending my time when I’m actually doing things throughout the day.  I assume this is because I’m subconsciously trying to remember the events that I will eventually recap later on before bedtime.
  • I’m more keenly focused on the task at hand.  I now absorb myself more in everything I do so I can extract the details and fully recollect the moment.  This has helped me narrow my focus and concentrate when I’m tackling difficult tasks.
  • Outside of recapping my day every night, I have improved my ability visualize other aspects of my life as well.  Future goals, past milestones, to-do’s, tasks at hand, etc.
  • I also seem to fall asleep more easily.  Often in the middle of recapping my day, I peacefully doze off into a deep slumber.  I assume this is because recapping the details of the day is kind of like counting sheep as they jump over the moon.

So give this bedtime memory building exercise a try.  It’s simple, relaxing, mentally stimulating, and seriously thought-provoking.

Photo by: Jah

18 Things You Are Wasting Money On

Waste Your Money

Money can buy freedom – freedom from trading hours for dollars.  Money can buy options – the option to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do.  Money is great to have as long as you manage and spend it wisely.  But most of us never do – we waste it and we don’t even realize it.

How?  Why?

Because many of the items and services we buy aren’t worth what we pay for them.

Here are 18 common money wasters to beware of:

  1. Bottled Water – Water is one of the most abundant, freely available resources on planet Earth.  So is air.  If I bottled some air, would you pay 2 to 3 dollars a bottle for it?  I doubt it.  Bottom line:  Buy a water filter for your tap and stop wasting your money.
  2. Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions – The same exact articles are online for free.  I can read them right now and I didn’t pay a dime.  Why are you?
  3. Printer Ink Cartridges – If you’re buying brand new ink cartridges every time you need new ink for your printer you’re paying about $8000 a gallon for ink.  Yep, that’s right!  Computer printer ink is one of the most overpriced consumer goods.  For home users, instead of buying new ink cartridges, take your old ones to a store that will refill them for half the price.  For businesses that do lots of printing, consider outsourcing the bulk of your printing.
  4. More House Than You Need – When you buy or rent a house that’s bigger than you need, you end up wasting lots of money on larger monthly payments, higher upkeep costs, higher utility bills, and lots of random ‘stuff’ to fill up the extra empty space.
  5. Insurance – Car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, etc.  Insurance companies love to rip us off.  And while you can’t totally avoid them from a legal standpoint, you can shop around and save yourself a boat-load of cash.  Don’t get comfortable paying what you’re paying simply because you’re used to it.  Make sure you’re getting the best deal.
  6. Premium Cable or Satellite TelevisionHulu.com offers thousands of television shows and full-length movies – all for free.  And Netflix charges $9 a month for access to hundreds of thousands of television episodes and movies on DVD, or you can stream them live to your computer.  So if you’re paying more than $9 a month, you’re wasting your money.
  7. Retail Furniture – Most people don’t realize that home furniture has a 200% to 400% markup on it.  A typical retail furniture store must maintain warehouse inventory, a showroom, commission salesmen, etc. which all equates to a fairly high overhead.  For this reason it is normal for furniture retailers to maintain extremely high markups.  A typical piece of furniture that has a ‘suggested retail price’ of $500 will usually cost the retailer less than $200, so even when they put it ‘on sale’ for $400, they’re still making over 100% profit.  The best way to save big money on furniture is to buy from an online furniture store with low overhead, buy wholesale, or buy slightly used on eBay or craigslist.
  8. Restaurants and Prepared Foods – I don’t need to tell you this.  Eating out is ridiculously expensive.  So is buying prepared foods at the grocery store.  Buy both every once in awhile as a treat, but learn to cook and prepare your own food on a regular basis.  It’s not just cheaper, it’s healthier too.
  9. Nutritional Supplements – Protein powders, vitamins, sports drinks, etc. – all of them are overpriced and have been proven by doctors to be mediocre sources of nourishment.  The answer to good health rests not in a once or twice a day supplement solution, but in an integrated approach to good baseline nutrition though healthy eating habits that give us the energy we need to enjoy our lives and the best chance of warding off illnesses.
  10. Luxury Name Brand Products – A car gets you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’  A purse holds your personal belongings.  A pair of sunglasses shades your eyes from the sun.  A shirt keeps you warm.  If you’re paying premium prices just to get a fashionable brand name labeled on each these products without any regard for how efficiently the products actually serve their practical purpose, you’re wasting your money.
  11. New Cars – See my previous point.  A car is a means of transportation to get you from one place to another.  If you’re buying a new car every few years even when your old car works perfectly fine, you’re likely trying too hard to impress the wrong people… and you’re going broke in the process.
  12. Electronics Warranties – When you buy new electronics a warranty might seem like a decent thing to invest in.  After all, a warranty covers everything from technical problems to spilling soda on the circuits.  But don’t be fooled.  Most of the time the numbers just don’t make sense.  For instance, a two-year extended warranty on a $400 laptop at Best Buy will cost you upwards of $280 – that’s about 70% of the original price.  You’re better off saving your money and taking your chances.
  13. Retail Computer Software – Most retail computer software is marked way up.  You can easily find OEM copies of the exact same software online (on eBay and similar sites) for 25% – 50% less.  Also, look into free open source software alternatives.  For instance, Microsoft Office Professional 2010 costs $300 at Best Buy, but you can download OpenOffice.org’s professional office suite which has all the same word processing, spreadsheet, etc. capabilities for free.  And OpenOffice.org is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office files.
  14. Medical Issues that Can Be Avoided – Eat right and exercise regularly!  Keep your body and mind healthy!  Major medical problems drain back accounts, increase insurance rates, keep you from working and earning money, and generally guarantee that you will have long-term financial problems.
  15. Prescription Medication – The previous bullet leads directly into this one.  Prescription medicine has one of the highest markups of any consumer good. The sky high cost of prescription medications is crippling parts of the US economy and keeping necessary medicines out of the hands of those who need it most – people living on fixed incomes with acute or chronic health issues.  Unlike other countries, there are no price controls on prescription medications here in the US.  So we end up paying 200% – 5000% markups on essential medicines and drugs such as Prozac and Xanax.  The solution is to buy wholesale at wholesale resellers such as Costco.  Costco’s prices are typically half the cost of the local retail pharmacy on many popular prescription medications.
  16. Jewelry and Precious Gems – All jewelry is subject to volatile changes in price and high markups.  The industry average markup varies widely – 100% to up to over 1000%.  And jewelers thrive on the uneducated buyer, so do your research.  Also, jewelry is almost always an emotional purchase, so you need to think logically about what you’re getting, how much you’re paying for it, and what your other options are.  And even then, you probably won’t get a great deal.  Buying and wearing less jewelry is always the smartest choice.
  17. Second-rate EntertainmentThe best things in life are free.  Stop wasting your money on movies, games, and other second-rate entertainment and take a good look around you.  Mother Nature offers lots of entertainment free of charge.  Go hiking, go skinny dipping, play in the rain, build a bonfire with your friends, watch the sunset with your lover, etc.
  18. Nasty Money-sucking (and life-sucking) Habits. – Smoking, drinking and gambling are all perfect examples of bad habits in which you choose to trade short term pleasure for long term debt and discomfort.  So light one up, shoot one down, and toss another chip across the table.  It’s only your life and livelihood.

Photo by: Tracy O.

How To Love

How To Love

More People Like Him

You’d like Jaydee a lot.  Most people do.  He’s the kind of guy who listens when you talk, who smiles often, and who says things that make the people around him smile.  He’s intelligent, but in a way that makes others feel comfortable.  It’s the way he expresses himself in simple terms that you can understand – almost like he’s articulating the thoughts you already have in your head, but haven’t yet found the right words to say aloud.

It doesn’t matter who you are either.  Jaydee always has a way of relating to you.  Because, in a way, he’s been there with you all along.  He can think like you, so he understands you.  So many of us have limitations in our perceptions.  We understand the soldiers but not the politics governing the war.  We understand the people who go to the movies but not the ones who attend NASCAR races.  But somehow Jaydee gets all of us.  It’s his gift.

If he hasn’t actually been to the NASCAR race you’re talking about, he’ll be honest about it – but he’ll make you feel as if he was right there with you.  And once you return home after spending a night with Jaydee, you’ll catch yourself smiling and thinking that there needs to be more people like him in the world.  Because if there were, there would be far less to worry about.

Jaydee passed away today.  I don’t really want to discuss the details, because honestly they aren’t relevant.  It could have been a car accident.  It could have been old age.  We are often far too concerned with how people died, rather than how they lived.  And I want you to know how he lived.  He told stories – lots of stories that contained subtle insights and wisdom about our lives and the world around us.  And today, I want to share with you the last story he told me before he died:

His Last Story

One Sunday morning when I was a little boy my father surprised me and took me to the fishing docks.  But instead of fishing, like all the other little boys and girls were doing with their fathers, we sat down on the end of one of the docks and watched all the other children fish.  For hours, we sat there and watched until we left without ever casting a single fishing line into the water.

I was simultaneously sad and angry.  On the drive home I told my father that I’d never forgive him for being so cruel to me.  He looked at me, smiled and said, “I love you, Jaydee.”  When I didn’t respond, he asked, “Did you notice how happy all the other little boys and girls were?  Did you see their smiles?  Could you feel the happiness in their hearts?”   After a moment of silence I quickly snapped, “I don’t really care!  I just want to go fishing like everyone else!”  My father sighed and kept driving.

We went back to the fishing docks dozens of Sunday mornings throughout my childhood.  And each time we saw hundreds of other little boys and girls jumping and laughing and celebrating as they reeled in fish.  But we still never cast a single fishing line into the water.  We just sat in there on the end of that same dock and watched.  And my father never explained why.  But he didn’t need to.  Because years later, as I entered adulthood, I suddenly realized that those mornings we spent sitting on that dock was where I learned how to love.

Photo by: Yasin Hasan