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“Let the World Pass You By”

February 23, 2009

Really. You’ll notice incredible things.

But don’t just let it pass you by…watch it pass you by. Be there in the moment. Because the moment may be all you have to hold, to cherish and to live.

Spend some time being at peace with yourself and the world around you.

This is all inspired by another inspiring post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits. Shorter than usual and, dare I say, better than usual. Read all of it.

As I said to a group of high schoolers a few weeks ago, spend some time as a lion so you can become an elephant. Now, I know that might sound a little counterintuitive, but hear me out.

When I was in Africa, we saw probably a dozen lions and lionesses in our few safaris through the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. And with few exceptions, they were loner lions. We saw a pair of young lions—technically a lion and a lioness—playing around, aka slaughtering a wildebeest. And there was the lion with the mane and his mate who had pretty obviously just been through the ritual.

She was just lying there, watching us as we watched her

She was just lying there, watching us as we watched her

But there were far more lions lying in trees and sleeping on rocks than otherwise. They were watching the world happen around them. They stared at us as we parked our SUVs and stared back. They yawned and prowled. But they took in the world around them like no other animals seemed to. They were cherishing themselves and they were cherishing time alone.

A pack of elephants passes directly in front of our vehicles

A pack of elephants passes directly in front of our vehicles

When we saw the group of elephants on our last daylight trek through the Serengeti, they were in a line. They were in a group, a team. Everyone connected, everyone following. And everyone leading.

It was incredible.

The young ones grasping the tails of the older, bigger, stronger ones. And they were perfectly comfortable in their shared space. They passed right in front of our vehicles as we drove down the path, oblivious to all that was around them. But not because they didn’t care; because they knew that they were self-sufficient. They knew themselves and they knew each other, so they don’t need to rely on anyone or anything else.

Both lions and elephants exist in the same system, a constant reminder of the cycle between introspection and extroversion. Just like a dark personality can’t exist without a lighter side.

Everyone’s a little schizophrenic

February 23, 2009
Life of Pi Book Cover

Life of Pi Book Cover

I recently completed Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I know most people who read this book are in early high school or even middle school, but I guess I missed the boat (a little pun for those who’ve read it). While the book itself is a great one, transporting readers to another side of the world to identify with a young Indian boy, there is a darker them than simple storytelling here.

“Let me affirm my belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

FDR—love him or hate him—spoke these words at the beginning of his first inaugural address in 1933, and they’ve become part of the fabric of American culture. Certainly an inspirational quote, especially when uttered to a desperate nation. But Martel, I believe, puts a new spin on this quote in his book.

“The only thing we have to fear is ourselves.

I posted a while back on the different possibilities for human heroism and villainy—below is the embedded video—but this book puts that perspective into a literary sense. At the end of the novel, the reader finds out that the main character Pi embodies both sides of the human coin: the very thing he is afraid of and bent on controlling is himself. And that applies broadly as well.

You see, human beings have a distinct power to affect those around them. And that effect can be positive or negative, good or evil. Everyone’s personality has multiple facets. And everyone has to deal with them at different times.

The first step is to embrace all sides of your personality. Know that each facet complements the others and wouldn’t exist if not for the others. I make sarcastic, asinine comments pretty frequently, but that part of my personality also goes hand-in-hand with my whole sense of humor.

As you live your life, you learn to take the good with the bad. You learn that the bad makes the good that much better. And you relize that life is a series of peaks and valleys, not one long plateau.

So treasure the valleys as much as you treasure the peaks. I’ve heard Louie Giglio say that trials are a megaphone for what you believe. Nobody cares about your beliefs when times are good, but when you’re struggling, you’re under other people’s microscopes. Wield your megaphone intelligently and you can use your life as a message.

And it all starts with embracing the dark and light in yourself. Don’t fear either of them.

A video montage of Sunday inspiration

February 22, 2009

I was in a particularly inspirational mood, so I figured I’d share a bit. These three videos are some of the most inspirational ones I’ve found on the Internet.

This first one is from the Mocha Club. I’ve linked to it previously, but it certainly deserves another post. And upon further review, I wasn’t actually the one who “discovered” Mocha Club or this video, so I can’t really take the credit for it.

If you haven’t heard of “Where the Hell Is Matt,” then do yourself a favor and check it out. Basically, Matt goes around the world and dances. And he gets all the locals in on it, and it’s a spectacular show. This is his 2008 video.

I’ve also linked to this one previously, but it deserves reposting as well. This is quite possibly my favorite video on the Internet ever. Simply spectacular. Ben Zander speaks directly to the heart of leaders and presenters everywhere. Probably the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today are the 20 minutes that it takes to watch this video.

If you know of any other inspirational videos and/or posts around the Internet, please post them in the comments. I love collecting these things. Have a happy Sunday!

Money means so much more…when it’s inspi(RED)

February 19, 2009
Its rather inspi(RE)

It's rather inspi(RED)

Today I received a brand-new 16GB iPod Nano in the mail. It’s gorgeous. And it’s a huge improvement over my old 4GB iPod Mini from about four years ago.

But there’s so much more meaning to this one because I know that the money is going somewhere. Allow me to explain:

I chose to purchase—I say “purchase” loosely because my parents actually gave it to me as a birthday present—the red Nano. Not just a red Nano though, but a (RED) Nano. The (RED) campaign is one intended to help Africa, one purchase at a time. Brands from Dell to Apple to GAP have signed on to the campaign.

But the weirdest thing is the sense of satisfaction that I have, simply because I know that my money is going to a cause larger than myself. And believe me, Africa is much larger than I am and so are the problems that course through its veins.

The question here is why I have that heightened satisfaction in the first place.

I think the answer is quite simple: Human beings have an innate desire, even need, to be a part of something larger than their own life. To connect with a higher purpose, a higher meaning. You see, we all realize at some point in our life that we are only here on this planet for a second. That there is some larger story of which we are a small part.

And when we come to this realization, we decide that we may as well make that second as meaningful as we possibly can.

There are plenty of ways to do this, and not all of them—or even a majority of them probably—deal with money. Donate your time to volunteer work. Join the Peace Corps. Sponsor a kid. Join the Mocha Club. Send money to charity. Smile. Get creative here, there are many more ways to accomplish this.

Just do something. Be meaningful in some way.

A-Rod Steroid Scandal Is an Indictment of the American Public

February 19, 2009
A-Rod raised more questions with his answers during a half-hour press conference

A-Rod raised more questions with his answers during a half-hour press conference

** This article is currently published on Bleacher Report **

(image: Getty Images)

Much has been written and reported on the current Alex Rodriguez steroids debacle. But little mention has been made of why exactly this is significant.

Hint: It really has nothing to do with the player himself or the steroids. It has everything to do with the baseball-following public.

Professional baseball has a long history of gripping the national attention for years, even decades, on end. Baseball legends tower over the legends of other sports. Baseball games themselves even stand as a male rite of passage to this day.

More than any other sport, baseball attached itself to the national identity. Granted, the U.S. baseball team may not be a juggernaut on the international stage, but we can justify that through our use of both collegiate and minor-league players.

Still, baseball players always had an air of “every man” about them. We could picture ourselves out on the diamond because we could play the sport in our own lives.

If you were to rewind to that glorious summer of 1998, during which the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa ignited America’s passion for its pastime, you would see a nation of smiling faces.

Americans finally had something to unite over and cheer for, regardless of team or even sport loyalty. Let alone the fact that the Midwest had never seen such national attention for anything since the original 1930s Dust Bowl.

Water cooler talk consisted of the boom coming from both the economy and coming from Major League Baseball. I would challenge you to find a major sport that ever enjoyed such a season of national prominence and had such rosy expectations.

Fast-forward to the present and nothing about the MLB resembles that summer almost 11 years ago.

The formerly jovial Commissioner Bud Selig cannot be found without his permanent scowl. The sport’s stars have fallen one by one over the decade. And the nation’s athletic mood has suffered proportionately.

Yet the disgraced players could be placed into the past, a part of the game’s history, not its present. The American public needed a shining star to follow. Simply put, we were desperate.

So when news of A-Rod’s juicing hit the public eye, it came as a final blow to the general psyche. Ever since McGwire and Sosa were exposed as frauds, baseball fans have been clinging to one single hope: Not every ballplayer is cheating, and A-Rod is the savior of the game.

Like it or not—like him or not—A-Rod was supposed to deliver the game and deliver it cleanly.

His strength was supposed to be natural, a product of an extensive weight-training program since his high school years.

His statistics were supposed to be legitimate, the result of his weight training and his God-given talent. And a note about his statistics: He was on pace to break just about every major record on the books, home runs, runs, RBI, you name it.

But it was not to be.

A-Rod’s fellow players, teammates and otherwise, have come out condemning his steroid use and expressing a general disappointment in his actions. They know just how important this one player was to the future of the game.

Yet it could be just a little too late.

The American baseball-loving public has been fooled again. Our trust has been betrayed, and we have seen our game shamed by the very player who should have saved it.

The old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

What happens when millions of people are all fooled dozens of times?

Georgia-Florida: Bulldog Basketball Team Discovers Three-Point Shot, Hope

February 15, 2009

Woodbury scored a career high 32 points to defeat the Gators

Woodbury scored a career high 32 points to defeat the Gators

** This article is currently published on Bleacher Report **

(image: Athens Banner-Herald)

Cinderella may not be dressed and ready to go yet, but she sure shined off those shoes for at least one evening’s fun. The Georgia Bulldogs men’s basketball team managed to avoid a winless conference season by knocking off the Florida Gators 88-86 in front of a fairly energetic home crowd.

For a team that had just weathered a 31-point beat down at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Dawgs found a way to defeat the Gators in the least plausible way: by scoring.

The previous five seasons or so of UGA basketball have been defined by the defensive mindset of ousted coach Dennis Felton, but Terrance Woodbury single-handedly turned that reputation upside down in the half.

Woodbury, almost equally the target of boos as cheers during his time at Georgia, did not miss a single shot in the first half, on his way to pouring in 20 points, including knocking down five three-pointers.

He simply could not miss, and brought the Dawgs storming out of the gates to a 21-8 lead in the first 10 minutes. And the season-long hibernation of the Bulldog basketball faithful—with the notable inclusion of the student section—finally ended, if only for one game.

The Bulldogs again found themselves with a large lead in the first half and managed to maintain a seven-point edge until halftime. In the second half, the Gators shot and defended themselves back into the game, even taking a two-point lead with less than 10 minutes to go. But the home team’s patience prevailed as the Gators committed key fouls down the stretch and the Bulldogs clamped down on defense on crucial possessions.

Center Albert Jackson, possibly the recipient of the least cheers in a collegiate basketball career, played like the 6’11” hulk of man that he actually is.

Freshman point guard Dustin Ware held onto the ball like his life depended on it, knocking down three-point shots when Woodbury was covered.

And Freshman All-SEC candidate Howard “Trey” Thompkins grabbed rebounds and altered shots like the top-ranked player we recruited.

But simple game recaps cannot do justice to what this victory means for both the team and the UGA community at large.

I walked into Stegeman Coliseum with my parents and younger brother after having to convince myself the game would not be a waste of everyone’s afternoon. We arrived 30 minutes before tip-off to an arena almost equally divided between home team and visiting team fans.

And in the general admission section where we sat, we were probably outnumbered 2-to-1 by Gator fans, both young and old. The student section was nearly abandoned save for the free red and black shakers waiting on every chair. Needless to say, the emotions surrounding the game were nearly as low as the expectations.

But it is funny how sports—collegiate sports specifically—can change people’s emotions so quickly. By halftime, the excitement and hope were almost palpable in the arena air.

The Dawg fans had a reason to pay attention; they were watching a basketball team leave all of itself out on the court. Sure, there will not be too many games where an entire team shoots nearly 60 percent from the floor. And it will be a very long time until the Bulldogs hit 14 three-pointers in a single game. And you can never count on a player reaching a career high in scoring.

Everything just came together yesterday evening, and it was beautiful.

When the final, desperate Gator shot missed the mark, Woodbury fittingly grabbed the clinching rebound. The proceeding minutes encompassed the meaning surrounding the game. The two teams came together to dutifully shake hands. The Bulldogs then rushed to the student section to dance and celebrate. The students screamed and hugged each other.

The Bulldog Nation had a glimmer of hope for the future of the program and its assembled talent. But the best part may well have been the faces of the Gator fans quietly filing down the steps and out the doors.

Feeling is believing

February 5, 2009
You have to plan for it first

You have to plan for it first

Zen Habits has a guest post up from Danielle LaPorte from WhiteHotTruth.com. WhiteHotTruth is a blog site devoted to self-realization along much the same lines as things you see posted on here fairly frequently. Danielle’s post puts a tremendously new twist on the age-old process of goal setting, and it’s challenging in a much different way than traditional goal-setting.

Here’s what I mean:

Danielle’s focus is all about setting goals for feelings. Not for tangible results or step-by-step actions, but how you want to feel when you accomplish things. It’s a different way of looking at the question of “What?” Throughout college — and, ironically, the life-changing leadership development courses I’ve taken — I’ve done several exercises in goal-setting. But each one of them consists of one central question: “What do you want to accomplish?” And it’s corollaries: “How can you accomplish these goals? And when do you want to accomplish them?”

All of these questions and exercises are great, don’t get me wrong. You’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t first plan to accomplish it. You’ll float along. As a good friend of mine slapped me with a few days ago: “You can’t just sit on your hands and do nothing, Eric.” She actually followed that up by making me think about (I wrote them down, actually) 3 ideal situations of where I would see myself come this August. If you’ve been following my life trajectory for the past few months, you know that I’ve been not exactly struggling with per se, but more like exploring all my different options (Peace Corps now, vineyards, etc.).

But in the back of my mind is the notion that I’m also pursuing happiness. And happiness is a feeling. I had just never specifically gameplanned my feelings for the future.

Yet just as you’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t plan, you’ll never feel accomplished if you don’t plan for those feelings. And so it is with the rest of my career decision process: I’ll continually ask myself how I want to feel instead of what I want to do. The questions are linked, and the answers are complementary. I can’t wait.