Addicted to Competition

Recently I read a quote that I have heard many times before.

“The rest of the world has culture, America has sports.”

Apart from the annoying thing that it is to have the United States just claim the whole continent; “Even someone born in the Patagonia is still American” the US has a real hard time getting their heads around what the culture here is. I mean, not like it is not annoying enough that American sports claims to have the “World” champions in so many sports. The more I try to explore the topic, the more it comes back to competition, individualism and in some extreme ways to look at it as narcissism.

The other conversations I have been having recently lead me to believe that more and more people don’t understand what it takes or don’t want to become adults. It is an interesting concept and I have seen it all my life. The taglines for this blog at one point was “just a child stuck in adulthood.” A lot of people told me that I had to grow up fast, or that I grew up too fast.

Considering myself an adult is something recent to me, and marriage did not do it… what actually did it was having to face the death of those around me and when the people I consider adults started to look at me for answers or advice. It was a weird feeling, and honestly I don’t know if I really like being an adult all that much. Responsibility is a tricky thing, and most of the time not a pleasant one.

Trying to anthropomorphize the United States to make a point seems valid in the discussion. If we look at the 60s and 70s as the teenage years, why does it seem like the country never came of age?

Is it because we have a nation of children that want to be taken care of at every corner? or is it because being a responsible adult is just not part of the fabric of this country any longer.

I think one of the basic principles in the culture of Colombia comes down to a simple proverb,

“El vivo vive del bobo” a good translation is almost impossible, “The clever lives of the simple minded (or dumb)” just does not encapsulate all the meaning that the phrase has for those that group up with it. It begins to teach you at a very young age that you will be taken advantage of unless you wise up. It does not have anything to do with competition though.

I was already a teenager when I moved to the US and not growing up in an average American household I have no idea what little proverbs were used to teach kids lessons. I do know what Hollywood always portrays… the rise of the underdog. The geek has to beat the quarterback at something to get the girl right?

I do think competition is good, but I don’t think it should be the only way to interact with other people. I have seen it ruin many of my relationships. Compromise is laughed at because there always has to be a loser.

I don’t hate sports, I actually love that many sports do teach a lot of lessons to kids about teamwork and sportsmanlike conduct. But what about those people that don’t get to play sports, where do they pick up those skills?

The next topic I want to discuss is chess and my love of that game. Even though the game is all about beating your opponent I think it does a lot for not just critical thinking but teaching healthy competition. Failure should not deter you from trying, it should make you want to try harder.

Is American culture just a mirror of what sports culture is like? only one winner, only one “World” champion?

Letting Others Think For You

The other day I was reading a blog and I came into a piece of writing that shocked me. I am totally going to paraphrase in the off chance that someone can actually trace it back to the post (and therefore the person)

“I continued to watch the show because it is one of the shows that smart people watch, even though I did not get the humor; I would try to laugh and I was going to force myself to enjoy it.”

Now, discarding the fact that it could be a complete BS blog written just to mess with people’s head (it kind of messed with mine if you could not already tell.) Would someone actually make themselves “like” something because others do?

I know I have done plenty of things that I did not want to do, and I do admit that sometimes I am wrong on judging stuff that I am going to enjoy. Forcing myself to like something though to be part of a perceived group of people though? That sounds more than a little bizarre for me. Isn’t kind of figuring out what you like and don’t part of developing a personality.

I guess every time that I go to a romantic comedy with Bea it is a similar exercise. I think the success rate of them is about 50% in not making me want the 2 hours of my life back. Overall I hate romantic comedies because they do to promote false sense of what relationships should be. I have an awesome relationship with my wife; but I am not that perfect dude from the movies. I don’t think that perfect dude really exists. That is what they sell… and people actually fall for it. I think some people that have a lot of issues dating are because they have built unrealistic expectation of that the ideal person should be; and yes I do sometimes blame romantic comedies for that.

The more I thought about it, the more we do try to like things that those around us enjoy. We read movie reviews, we listen to the critics, now social media makes it so our friends can also start sharing more and more of their opinions and probably having more influence in our likes and dislikes.

I guess the process can be mostly unconscious, my friends like something so I should find what it is that they like and try to enjoy it. I guess the part that freaks me out is thinking that if a certain group or type of people like something, then if I want to be like them I have to make myself enjoy what they do. Like if somehow I watch the discovery channel I will now become a scientist. Its just delusional. Is that what the newer generations are like? Do people really want to be told what to like? Do people really believe that personality traits via osmosis works in higher beings?

Going Postal

Some weeks ago there was a notice by our mailbox at home saying that mail delivery might be cut back to only 3 days a week. At the time I was not surprised since we get most of our bills electronically and a good portion of the mail we actually get is a lot of junk.

I read here and there that the postal service is in trouble and losing money. I am not as close to all of that anymore since it has been a long time since I worked for a company that actually did direct mail. Not too far back I did do a project with some address standardization, but I had no direct contact with anything even remotely related to the USPS.

This week Daniel and I were discussing the mail taking a long time to deliver some important things and it all came back to me. If we do start getting less and less mail, the delivery service will slow down. I remember how in Colombia mail only comes once in a great while when you get an actual letter. Most bills were distributed by the companies own carriers.

This reminds me of how Japan Post is a pretty big private company now, but I have no clue if that has been a success or a failure. Now the news media outlets are all buzzing with “plans to save” the USPS. Also tomorrow the president is supposed to speak on his plan for job creation… but if the USPS fails, that is a lot of jobs, that is a lot of money, scary really.

I wish I had some insight to share here, but it is just me wondering what the mail will look like five years from now. Is the digital age killing more than just news papers and media like CDs and DvDs?

Netflix eventually ran blockbuster out of business, like blockbuster had done to the local video store. Robots are replacing people, maybe not the humanoid looking ones, but every time that you get something from a vending machine… well that machine replaced a human.

Our society is changing rapidly. It might feel that way because we are witnessing it as it unfolds, but this century things are changing at a staggering pace. I am very curious as to how the president is going to address the job creation thing, not just from the now perspective but also about the future… how are we going to retrain the country and also the world to move into the digital age. Its not that it is coming anymore, it is here.

When Culture Clashes with Corporate

While linked in might not be looked at in the same light as facebook or twitter, it still has the component of social media of connecting you with people you might have lost contact with over the years. I just recently saw a name again that brought a lot of great memories.

I had seen my Dad work for a big company my whole life. Our house was full of little reminders of where my Dad worked. Postobon is the distributor of Pepsi down in Colombia. I spent a lot of weekends in that company and got to see my the inner workings of a production plant and also the accounting department where my Dad worked. Remember that back then not everyone had an old mainframe level of computing power in their pockets. So being able to do data entry on an old monochromatic green screen was just awesome.

My Dad worked many weekends while I was growing up, and it was fun to go into the office with him. I met many of his coworkers that way and it gave me a view into his world that was probably not all that accurate. An office is a lot different on a Saturday that during the week. Everything I had know about corporations up to that point was through my Dad’s eyes.

I am not sure how it is in Colombian now, but it seemed like for my Dad’s generation once you got a job with a company, you retired from it. That is kind of how I approached my first full time job. I thought, I will help this company grow and be here forever. Even though that first job taught me so much, it was also one of the worst experiences I had in a workplace.

The reason linked in comes into this post is because one of the things that I learned thanks to that person that just popped into my head when I saw their name was the sense of gratitude. When I say to an employer, thank you for the opportunity; well, its not just something I read in an interview guide, I do really mean it. I was extremely grateful to many people for that first job… but then I learned a lot about the inner workings of a small company.

For a long time I felt so attached to that job, so thankful of the first opportunity, so thankful for everything that I had learned that I did not think leaving for another job was an option. I used to think of the job itself as something of a gift, and yes in these difficult economic times good jobs can be hard to come by and should not be taken for granted.

I don’t remember exactly why I made up my mind about leaving, I do remember that it was a lot about the job just not being balanced with the rest of my life. I do remember that what gave me “permission” mentally about leaving was a conversation about who had “given” me the job.

That person I just found again in Linked in told me. You should never feel like someone gave you the job, someone gives you the opportunity might even get your foot in the door, but your work will speak for itself; don’t feel like you owe anything to anyone.

The best part of the story is that the entire time I had worked there I thought I was considered for the job solely on someones recommendation, but as it turns out, it was actually someone completely different that actually pushed for me to get the opportunity.


It is amazing to find things that truly resonate with you. A nice piece of art, an awesome song that makes your soul move, or in this case a movie that illustrates exactly how you feel.

For years those close to me have heard me talk about how relationships and connections with other people is what is really important. When a connection is severed or a bond it lost, I really feel it. The movie I AM really puts things in very simple language and truly makes you think

So many people spend countless hours trying to obtain wealth and status only to feel empty in the end. I know understand the need for money to survive but there has to be a point of balance where getting more “stuff” should yield to being a better person and capable of sharing with others. I don’t think is all about giving your money away either, but just being truly able to share yourself with others.

The wife and I just spent a wonderful weekend with friends from out of town and their kids. It was an amazing time connecting, sharing and just being happy. It is amazing what can happen when people are open to create and awknowledge the importance of connections and how that is what we really are all about as humans. It is not about the individualism of “I have to be first!”