Friday, April 8, 2011

Be Like Water

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." — Bruce Lee

Water is capable of taking any shape. When running, it can either sweep cars down a street or help one meditate. It accepts the world for what it is and makes no conscious effort to change it, yet over many steady years of work or with great momentum it can change the world. It possesses great power but is formless and simple; it takes the easiest, most efficient route to its destination. How can being like water help you?

What sort of terrible things could happen to you? You could lose your job. You could lose a loved one, lose respect in the eyes of someone you admire, lose friends, lose money, possessions, confidence. Everything we have, we can lose.

But what can't you lose?

My abnormal psychology professor said that he lived without expectations. That way, he could never be disappointed. "Oh, my car didn't make it to work today? That's cool. I really didn't expect that."

There are two kinds of people I've noticed that come across as strong and confident at work. On one side you get the people who care a lot, and work their a$$e$ off to get there. But when something goes wrong, they get tied up in it. The guy you know who was devastated he didn't get a promotion or award. The girl who prepares to throw this huge party and only a few of her friends show up. They succeed because they work hard.

The other kind of people are the people that don't care. Or, to put it bluntly, DGAF. That's the prankster that's always messing around in class and doesn't care he gets in trouble. The guy where everything seems to come so easily. Who isn't rattled by the thought of giving a speech in front of a thousand people. They succeed because they have little to no fear of failure and, if failure occurs, can rebound quickly cuz they didn't care too much to begin with.

So if I were to make some supermutant hybrid of these personality types, add in some Chemical X, and have a result, it'd be this: complete detachment results, paired with the willpower to work hard. Resulting from this is a hyper-powered Zen master of his circumstances capable of anything... well... perhaps a slight exaggeration. But even so, it seems to be a good combo.

The catch here is that it's tough to do. It's difficult to accept failure after working so hard, and it's hard to get motivated to do anything if you don't care. Just flow with it. Like water. I'll see how it works.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy or Fulfilled?

When you die, which would you rather say: that you lived a happy life or that you lived a fulfilling life?
And who's to say what happiness and fulfillment is? Is it fame? Fortune? Power?

I got this widely proliferated story from Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Work Week:

"An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased hall. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Ferriss talks about a number of interesting concepts in his book, most chiefly the thought of taking a 'mini-retirement'. It's about taking life as it comes, making the most of it and enjoying it day by day. It's never too early to make that one-month trip to trek across the Sahara on camels or sail across the Pacific. You aren't getting any younger.

Three things make traveling around the world and enjoying the trek possible and convenient: youth, money, and time. If you're young with money, you're probably working like a demon to earn it. If you're retired with money, you're probably old enough to have passed the adventure years. If you're young without money, it's probably a summer break.

But I refuse to accept the status quo. Military TDY can give me a little bit of time into my schedule. Taking a couple weeks off between assignments gives me some more time. Saving up some money and spending some time in research can give me some great deals. And staying limber through the years and constantly active with a youthful mindset can keep me chipper through my middle years and into my elderly days.

Oh, gee. I can talk some serious smack about this though. Yes, words are cheap. I just have to follow through on it. I'll keep posting on my adventures, and more than just the philosophical ramblings. But I'll keep posting on my adventures and experiments.

Fame matters little to me. Fortune can come and go. And power is fleeting and tied to assuming a role. When I leave this world, all I'll have left is a series of memories, my skills, and my identity. I seek to make them the best possible. And there isn't a soul in the world capable of depriving me of these..

But back to the initial topic of the post. I don't enjoy stagnating where I am. I always like to keep moving forward and having some purpose at any given time. I enjoy making progress and living a fulfilling life. Right now I'm working to be the best ABM and officer I can be, am progressing rapidly through the ranks in my second dojo, meditating and mastering my body, learning how to do a handstand, scuba diving whenever possible, and taking action to be the best I can. In life. Only time will tell how far I progress in these.

This is only possible because I've weaned myself off of video games and TV for the most part, impressive considering I used to go into a video game coma for a day and log about 10 hours a day on weekends sometime. Living life without 'filler' is definitely rewarding.

When I grow old and reflect on these years, I am going to be able to confidently say that I left nothing behind and am completely content with what went on. I'll make mistakes. I'll be lazy. I'll get a little ahead of myself and get burned. I'll love. I'll lose. I'll wish for an opportunity to relive these years because they were so good. But I hope, and I'll make sure that I'll be just as happy with my future life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


"Are you bipolar?"
"I'm bi-winning" - Charlie Sheen, interview not too long ago (

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!" - Adam Savage, Mythbusters (originally Paul Bradford, The Dungeonmaster)

Just how far off kilter can you go before you're perceived as just plain weird? And if someone calls you that, does it truly mean they think you're weird, is it just a defense mechanism, or are they poking fun at your difference?

History is populated by men that made bold moves, received inordinate amounts of criticism for it, and were later vindicated. William H. Seward, Andrew Johnson's secretary of state, decided that a big patch of tundra to the west of Canada would be a good place to own. Now it produces 14% of our domestic oil (1). Christopher Columbus thought it would be a good idea to sail off the edge of the world to find a quicker way to India, Galileo had this crazy idea that the Earth, where the master of the universe had chosen us to live, was not the center of the universe.

Naturally these are the men that made progress in a substantial way, and I'm glazing over the millions of whackjobs that have lived on Earth since then, but these are the remarkable ones. Just like we don't want to watch a movie where the protagonist kills the first four bad guys and gets offed about fifteen minutes into the story, or the (slightly more realistic version of the) love story where the man speeds to the airport to catch his girl, meets her at the gate, professes his love for her, and she says "Oh. Thanks. I've... uhhh... gotta go right now." We aren't interested in the ordinary. Just like Tim Allen's client in Big Trouble says, "I don't want ugly. I can get ugly for free."

Owen Cook, founder of the company Real Social Dynamics, said that the difference between awkward and quirky is a matter of self-esteem. One can be different (to an extent, of course), but so long as it's genuinely self-amusing behavior and the person isn't rattled by criticism, it's OK. Case in point: Shawn Spencer from Psych. He and Gus are utterly out of place in a police station. But he's at least tolerated because he forges on pretty well after those moments of confused silence.

We look at people like Shawn when they hit a dry point in the conversation or have an tense, confused moment. If they react awkwardly, it confirms our suspicion. If they move along like nothing is wrong we carry on as normal. People learn socially. Just like when two year old that bonks its head on the wall it looks at the mom and dad to see their reaction. It's almost like the kid is thinking, "Hey, I just hit my head. It kinda hurts. Is this bad?" When the parents have the mortified stare, mouth gaping open, the kid thinks "Yup. It's bad. Ow, it's really bad. Gee, this really hurts." And cue the waterworks.

Perhaps there are some universal behaviors that can be awkward no matter what. And maybe there are some people who can act normal no matter what. But it does seem that the difference between quirky and funny versus awkward and just plain weird is the ability for strange looks, glowering stares, raised eyebrows, and the occasional awkward turtle to deflect off your skin.

So, moral of the story. Go out there. Be quirky. Have fun. Don't give a $h!t what people think or do in reaction if they disagree with your point of view. Because I can tell you that I appreciate those people much more. And I'd rather be around people who live by their own rules than the rules someone else made.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thinking in Your Head vs Feeling in the Moment

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” - Bruce Lee

You're the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl. Classic fourth-quarter two minute drive. You need a touchdown to win. Last play of the game.The game is on the line. A flood of thoughts start rushing through your mind. How will you be remembered? When all is said and done, are you going to be the champion, living in glory? Will you wear a Super Bowl ring, something you've been dreaming about since you were five? Can this really be happening? Will it finally work out with that head cheerleader you've been spying? 

You struggle to push these thoughts out of your head as you call the huddle, but you can't keep your focus. Doubt starts creeping in. You lose focus, and lose confidence. Your heart sinks. You snap the ball and just at the last moment you see a crowd member with a sign with your name on it and "Super Bowl Champion". You drift just for that moment, and then the next thing you see is black. Sacked. Game over.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" Ecclesiastes 3-1, King James Bible

I have an immense amount of respect for pro athletes. These guys are good. Really good. They train to the point where they can't get it wrong. And the champions are able to stay focused on the task at hand regardless of what's going on around them. Cheers, boos, losing scores, they alway keep their heads in the game rather than mulling over what's going on. What is going to happen after the game when they still have the power to control it. But a razor-like focus shouldn't be restricted to a select few percentile of the people out there. I want to train myself to carry it as well.

When I'm thinking, I'm in my head. My eyes glaze over. I kinda shut down my other senses to be able to think about a certain thing. My mind skips like a pebble flung across a clear lake on a lazy summer day. Each time it taps down on the glassy surface it hits on something else I remember. Cool when I'm bored and most of those things I think of are funny, or when I'm trying to learn something by making connections with things I know. Not so handy when I'm on the road or have a job to do.

But when I'm meditating, intensely into a sport, karate, or mission, or drunk I am only thinking a few steps ahead. At MOST. It's all about drinking in the atmosphere and maintaining complete focus on the task at hand. Not allowing my mind to drift. And that's the discipline I intend to gain through meditation and focusing on the task at hand.

When I'm in my head I think about what I want to do. I think about what went on. I think about what I am doing. And quite often this disrupts me from doing what I'm supposed to do. For instance. If I'm playing volleyball, and I start analyzing what's going on, I become a spectator. Instead, at all times I'm thinking 'What do I need to be doing right now? What is my next step? If I know that, what is the step afterwards?' If I break focus for one second, it's enough to muff a serve or cause me to react a hair too late to pick up a short little dink over the net. Focusing on the moment carries the day.

I don't mean to say that analysis doesn't have its purposes. It can be great at figuring out how to do something better. It's nice to know how a course can be improved, to watch a tape and pick apart strengths and weaknesses of form and whatnot. But it only matters as long as I take the right action from there. Sure, it's awesome that I now know that if I'm in the back row I have to step forward to prepare for a quick little dink over the volleyball net. But only if I act on it.

So action carries the day. Thinking about it during a 'debrief'' allows me to refine what I do. And next time it'll be better. Mess up the order? Bad juju.

It has been said that it's the thought that counts. We can think till we're blue in the face. But I think that it's the action, reflecting the thought, that counts.

Monday, April 4, 2011


"True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it." - Pliny the Elder

When you die, how will you be remembered? Will you fade into the background or leave a lasting impression? Will you, in the quest for power and legacy, be distorted along the way like so many 'freedom fighters' and third-world dictators? If in a position of authority, will you fear your subjects and fear losing power?

 I suppose I ought to start off the blog with a few of the reason why I'm beginning it.

First of all, it's to keep a record of what I do. For it's going to be a long life and I'll be able to look back on my thoughts with fondness. Plus when I become old and deranged and power-mad, a Bond villain true to form, I might be able to have a wake-up call.

Second of all, it's to get my thoughts straight. Just like some times when people tell you about their problems. They're not looking for a therapist, for a 3-step solution to whatever ails them. Just a friend that can say "I get it. It's going to be OK" and will listen to your 10-minute rant about what Susan said to you about your dress. Or hair. Not that I've got much of either of those.

Thirdly, it's an opportunity to share what I've learned with whoever wants to read. Spark some interest. Gain some insight. Get some motivation to do whatever.

And finally it's a motivational tool. If I'm going down a tough track it can keep me honest and keep me from kicking off my shoes at the end of the day and play Black Ops or Dragon Age for umpteen hours. I can focus on the things that really make a difference to myself and the world. Also, it lets people who are interested encourage me on, which I truly appreciate but do not require in any way, shape, or form.

As for the title: Viva la rEvolution. My old handle on AIM was based off of revolutionary, for two reasons. First, I loved DDR. It was fun. Secondly, I've never been one to accept the status quo or accept things that people say without my own thoughts going into them. Now this makes me a peculiar case for going into the military, but so be it.

But that's not the only reason I picked this title. I'm a big fan of self-improvement. Now although it gets a bad rap, taking the "Ten Steps to Making The World Alright" and cheesy sounding affirmations like "I am a good, beautiful person. I love me. People love me." and working it into a complicated system of self-delusion, it's got some good nuggets of truth to it.

Change is superficial. You can change back at any time. But evolution is permanent. Much harder, mind you.

Maybe my life is an entire intro story to a few seconds when I hold life and death in the palms of my hands. But I'm going to be ready for those moments. I have to be. So now I seek glory. Not in doing things that will be written about. Not in writing things that will be read or talked about. But true glory. Doing things worthy of being written of, and writing things worthy of being read.

And this is my journey.