Asking For Help

My Grandfather was a wise man, one of the many lessons he shared with my father and made it all the way down to me was the saying “bring me a sick man, not a dead man.” It was a simple way to rationalize that you don’t let problems get out of hand before you ask for help.

I grew up being very independent and it is a big part of my nature. I experienced life for many years just trying to do things on my own and professing self reliance as the best way to accomplish things. American society certainly fosters the growth of individualism and can do attitude. Then different events in my life made me realize that I was never alone and that even when someone says “you can do it!” just the simple fact of cheering you on is help you are receiving. There is no rule that you have to accomplish everything in life alone.

Community is a concept that I think was lost completely during the 80s and 90s. When Hilary said “It takes a village to raise a child” and people nodded someone should have slapped them. We need to be able to know these common sense things and not have them feed to us by politicians, we should be getting them from our own family or support structure. Our society should not wait until their kids get to college to get their “world view” and learn about diversity, community and other people. We need to recapture our sense of community.

I had a very interesting conversation with Melinda’s husband that left me with many thoughts, one of them that I wish we would have had more time to chat. We discussed how agricultural communities needed one another throughout the year and self reliance was not part of the deal. You needed your neighbors during harvest season. The true kicker though is that community is more significant than just someone to help with the heavy listing. Your health and quality of life are improved thanks your community.

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell as an author to the point that I was even accused of joining a cult after reviewing Blink. On his book Outliers talks about the phenomenon of how a community made a group of people very healthy. I have also read an article about how having a true friend to have a beer with and discuss your problems with makes you happier than being rich. All of this is pretty irrelevant if you don’t know how or when to ask for help.

Relay on those around you, share your thoughts and gain perspective. I believe blogs and online interaction are changing the word by creating new virtual communities that provide not just a sense of belonging but a group of people that care. I am super excited that my friend Dan is having a child this week, maybe even as soon as later on today! and thankful that he is one of the many people that are part of my community and extended family. Don’t wait until your problems or worries become to big, share them with those around you. It is one of the keys to happiness.

The More We Change

The more we stay the same. I am constantly trying to figure out if people can truly change or if everyone simply stays the same. I have experienced many situations where I though someone had suddenly changed, only to figure out that that is who they were all along, I just wanted to see something else.

This weekend Bea and I watched another romantic comedy, The Ugly Truth. My wife knows the ones that I can stomach and this one was pretty good. Not a full meal of a movie but an ok snack. A little on the sexist side, but also attempting to be truthful and shine the light on what woman think of man. It was no surprise that it was written from the female perspective.

I would have to agree with one of the main points of the movie. If anyone enters a relationship hoping to change or make someone fit into a mold, they are in for a rude awakening. Which brings me to this little pesky subject of change. The movie glosses over the whole subject of self improvement just pegging men as simply incapable of it.

The prior night Bea and I had an interesting conversation about cheating. One of our friends is going through the mental process of determining if they should stay in a marriage with a cheater, or give them just one more chance to change their ways. While the initial reaction is to just say “once a cheater, always a cheater” it is never that simple.

Manhood is achieved in many different ways in our society. We have many stereotypes that are followed as a means to gain respect either for self stem or admiration from your peers. Some men achieve that fixing or riding cars or motorcycles, some achieve that by having the best collection of whatever, some by being the best at a sport or game. The list goes on and on, but as men we have an innate need to excel at something, that is how we become desirable. Some people get that self stem from adding names or in some cases simply numbers to their “hit” list.

Everyone regardless of sex seeks to be recognized in some way. Acknowledgment is the reward for those that seek approval from others. Some people get that by achieving the ultimate intimacy rather than a meaningful relationship or even just a friendship. Some people even have a meaningful relationship, but still seek the thrill of getting into bed with someone because it achieves instant gratification for them in many levels. When this becomes extreme, a lot of effort is devoted to cheating, keeping the lies going, looking for new people to explore, finding that next conquest.

As oversimplified and one sided as it sounds, I have found this way pretty accurate when it comes to the cases I have encountered. I believe that in situations where there is cheating in marriages, it is most likely one person trying to fulfill what the other person is not giving them either emotionally of physically. For the one situation we discussed, and I hope it is not the norm, this person cannot get their approval from simply one human being loving them at home. So we circle back to, can this person change? Should the person just give up and just cut their loses and fold their hand?

Like everything is life, this is a complicated thing and not a slam dunk for the “move on” hopefuls. I believe that once you enter marriage you need to give it your very best til the very end. We all have flaws and while the worst one of all seems to be not being able to keep it in your pants, being a widow to a video game, a garage full of toys, a group of friends, etc, its not all that fun either… maybe less likely to get you the clap, but still not a good situation and makes for unhappy people.

A serial cheater can change only if they discover and understand the root of their problem. I personally think in this particular case, the person did not grow up in an environment where he could see a family structure as a viable or even real option. If you have never truly seen it, a family life can be the unicorn of someone’s existance. On top of that, no father figure or someone to show them how a lady should be treated. Everything else mixed with the nature of man to achieve status one way or another make the perfect cocktail for someone that does not know the value of commitment.

Nobody can change their nature, but everyone can change their behavior. Its not easy, it takes time and most of all support, but it can happen. People turn their lives around, men all over learn to put the toilet sit down. More important than that is accepting people for who they are, and entering every relationship with your eyes open. Do not think you will make someone check off your perfect attribute and expectation list of what a mate should be, specially if the dude has never seen the list.

Advanced Management

I recently completed a court as part of the curriculum the company has for managers. I was very skeptical at first because I have not learned much about actually managing people or time with previous courses and or books. Most concepts are great on paper or being presented, but putting the into practice is a totally different story. I was amazed when in preparation for the course I had to take two very different tests that measure aspects of how I manage people and how I resolve conflict.

These were not very simple tests either, they combined personality tracking with all kind of observation and conflict resolution skills. I was surprised about many of the things the tests scores revealed because I thought I had a good handle on my self evaluation when it came to managing styles, but I will discuss those in detail some other time. What I want to discuss today is how excellent was not just the course but the instructor.

I have always admired people that can stand in front of a room and command attention. I believe that being a teacher is one of the most undervalued professions in our society. The ratio of pay for teachers is just dismal for the value of the job that they perform in our communities. I always have it in the back of my head that someday I want to be a teacher or instructor of some type. I have enjoyed every single opportunity I have had to do public speaking or even just corporate or technical training I delivered.

The instructor was not just a good public speaker, she was also the course designer. I had never thought about how much work goes into putting together a good seminar, but little by little I saw she wasted no time trying to use the time to fill us up with not just information but tools we could actually use. This one was specially challenging when it came to time because as managers time is scarce. It was great that most of the busy work, like doing the surveys, was done before we even arrived at the class.

The topics covered ranged from conflict resolution to actual interviewing skills. The amount of information that we received in a very short period of time was amazing, and I am happy to report that I have retained most of it if not all. I wish some of the people that I had interviewed with in the past had attended this course.

The way that she was able to reveal only very little about herself, while at the same time sharing life experiences was amazing. Even more amazing was that she is a complete introvert, yet able to talk for long periods at a time keeping people interested that had blackberries making noises the while time.

I am sure everyone that uses the net is tired of personality tests, but the instructor actually believed on them. She encouraged us to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator along with the other tools to help teams work together. She also believed that people should be aware of other people’s personality types because it would help greatly with their interaction.

She also addressed the question of leadership and if it is innate or taught. While she did not give a conclusion, she did make it more clear that some people are simply not cut out for it. While vision is a great thing, being able to connect with people and share that vision is sometimes more important.

I am not sure if I will eventually be a corporate trainer or even become a teacher. If I do, I would like to be able to be as good with a subject as she was.

Art for the Soul

I love blogging because of the community you build with your circle. While thanks to the KC Bloggers I was able to expand my blogger circle quite a bit, reading Daniel and Will has always been a constant source of topics to expand on, agree with or disagree. One of the topics I have been wanting to discuss is art appreciation and how not everyone seems to like all types of art. It started with Dan posting poetry, which I like and appreciate, but not as much as other forms of art. Without getting into the branch of philosophy known as aesthetics and for this post’s discussion lets define forms of art as music, literature, sculpture, and paintings.

XO beat me to the punch and posted a very outspoken prose ode to poetry. Then Emawkc came back and told XO how it is and that thanks to him renouncing to his soul and turning atheist he was not able to appreciate poetry.

Funny that I happen to fall right in the middle of those two views… not quite sandwiched in, but I think they both have a point. Lets examine the following.

(Move my soul) Music – Literature – Paintings – Sculpture (I don’t get)

I admit it, sculpture do pretty much nothing for me. The most interesting thing in that genre besides some fountains is maybe just huge real life things like the shuttlecock on the lawn of the Nelson Atkins museum. Paintings also don’t transmit as much feeling into my brain as photos do. Some people see tons of stuff in a painting that are just beyond my comprehension. I could not be moved by a sculpture no matter how beautiful as I am by a melody or some well arranged words.

I am sure XO appreciates art in some level, and something has to get to his non existent soul once in a while. Now the question is, using this little scale I use give us your order… I wonder if it is purely a senses type of thing, or if culture plays into it. So lets see your answers.

Driving

Everyone in this country thinks that X city has the worst drivers, and from first hand experience they have never driven in Cali, Colombia. I am sure that the reason that people don’t care about traffic signals or speed limits is that there is little consequence beyond getting on a wreck or taking someone’s life… that happens quite often and I lost my best friend to a car crash down there years ago. In the US the fear of getting stopped by the police and given a fine keeps most people driving within reason, but we have all seen people driving like maniacs in an interstate if they think its “clear” and then slow down as soon as there is a cop.

There is a little anecdote I hear about someone that got a chance to move and work in Switzerland. Someone from the company he was working for was driving him to work every morning and he noticed that he parked very far away from the entrance in a very limited parking lot. The person’s curiosity was eventually too much and they asked why did he park so far since they obviously got there early and were there first. The driver explain it in very simple logic, “When we arrive earlier, we have more time to walk to the door. Someone that come in later might need the walk time to actually arrive in time.” To some this might seem dumb, in our society we always want to be rewarded for doing something, we want self gratification so if we get somewhere early we want the “best” parking spot. Thinking of others is not something I see in many parking lots here. Something very small, almost trivial, but it illustrates a lot about how being thoughtful can be applied even to where you park in the morning. If you take that last parking spot right next closer to the door are you making someone running late, even later? Is that just their problem for not getting to their destination with more time?

This morning I wrestled the Chicago traffic once again and it solidifed my view that I need to find a place close to the office because with snow the commute could turn into a two hour mess quicker than you can say Chitown. There are new things here since the last time I lived in the area. A lot intersections now have cameras that will politely request money from you via mail. The highways don’t have the virtual cops and people are just as nasty as I remember. There was a dude in a red mustang that was cutting people off just to get a spot ahead in stop and go traffic.

I am not sure where that shift in the brain happens, that waking up 30 minutes earlier to drive at normal speeds and without stress is just not acceptable compromise. The pace of life here is quicker, but does it really have to be? Can I keep some of that slower pace from Kansas City in here? I guess we will have to wait and see.

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