Where does the time go?

24 05 2013

IMG_1250

I really dropped the ball this past month. I’d love to blame the plethora of mundane tasks I do daily like washing dishes, vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing toilets. I could point to all the time spent on even more pressing matters like keeping the lawn mowed and hedges trimmed to the satisfaction of the god-forsaken HOA. On a more positive note, we can’t forget the many hours spent working out. Finally, I could top off the list of excuses with all the truly exciting events that come with raising three daughters. There’s all those benchmarks so common in the life of a busy little two-year old, which are just as thrilling for me the third time around, as well as attending all of the plays, open houses, track meets, and ballet and  gymnastics classes of her older sisters.

I’d love to blame this busy life for not posting. It simply wouldn’t be true. I’m sure there’s plenty of bloggers out there, with schedules just as busy a as mine, who manage much more frequent posts than this. Extraordinary accomplishments come from extraordinary effort, whether it’s at work, as a parent, or in being a world-class athlete.

Let’s face it. I’ve failed miserably at posting even once the past six weeks because I allowed an apparent case of ADD to take charge. In between all of the above mentioned necessities, I got wrapped up in researching logical fallacies, which led to digging out all of my educational psychology books, and diving into some cognitive psychology. In the process I also stumbled into a discourse with an old classmate regarding creationism, which rekindled my fascination with the current trends in science denial, and eventually led me to get all caught up in the latest idiocies committed in the name of religion, and viola – nary a post for far too long!

All of these varying facets of the human condition fascinate me, and there never seems to be enough time to read everything I want to. For every book I check off my list of “must reads,” I add two more. Of course, all of these topics also play into my pursuit of being the best dad, teacher, and citizen that I can, which means I’m building up a backlog of topics to write about as well.

I can’t imagine inconsistency and unreliability are part of any proven formula for building up a large loyal readership, but be that as it may, onward…

In the final analysis, it’s not ADD, ADHD, nor any other malady that interrupted this work in progress. It was just  a lack of self discipline. I could have spent a bit less time reading those textbooks, or saved the debate regarding the existence of god for another day. I let my whimsical wants dictate my direction. Sure, just “going with the flow” can be fun now and then. As a normal modus operandi, however, this method will get you nowhere in a hurry.

There is more “self-help” literature out there than any mere mortal could ever read, and just like all of the dietary and/or fitness advice out there, much of it is junk. Most of it rehashes what’s already been said, repackaging it in varying ways in an attempt to cash in on a booming industry. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, by Stephen Covey, is one that I highly recommend.  His is a basic treatise on the fundamentals of succeeding in whatever endeavor you choose to pursue. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but I make reference to it on a regular basis, when I’m teaching my kids, when I’m coaching an athlete, or helping someone with their fitness goals.

His time-management system of four quadrants is a great way to break down activities, and best organize one’s time. As a parent of a two year old, there’s quite a bit of time spent in quadrant 1 that is unavoidable.  matrix-for-job-aidsEnough time spent in the second quadrant may lessen the impact of this aspect of child-rearing, but it’s a fantasy of the highest order to think it could be eliminated.

I, however, am constantly guilty of the simple pleasures that come from participating in quadrant four. This is where our whimsical wants of the moment drag us down, fill up our precious time, and keep us from accomplishing what is truly important.

It’s easy to justify all of the reading I’ve been doing in the name of self improvement. The real issue, however, is whether that reading is more important than the other things that I’ve made a priority, especially when it interferes with those higher priorities. As Covey so succinctly states in his third habit, Put first things, first.” Obviously the past few weeks of whimsical reading interfered with my goal of posting once a week. So, to borrow another habit from Mr. Covey’s book, it’s time to sharpen the saw.”





Kill your T.V.

22 02 2013

00025 Kill your Television

(click here for link to this bumper sticker)

IRAQ! AMERICAN IDOL! AFGHANISTAN! JERSEY SHORE! OBAMA! ICE ROAD TRUCKERS! MURDER! CONSPIRACY! THE KARDASHIANS! SANDYHOOK!

The media’s actions are understandable, albeit unscrupulous.  The nature of the  entertainment industry, of which CNN, FOX, and MSNBC are part, is to increase viewership.  Increased viewership means increased ratings, which translates to more advertising dollars, which is how broadcasting makes money.  Braodcasting agencies are driven, as is any corporate entity, by what generates profit.

Television “sells.”  We’re all aware of all the advertising that is continually interrupting whatever fine programing it is we’re wanting to watch.  Even though we realize this is simply part of the television experience, how many of us stop to consider the world view being promoted by all of this marketing? This stuff can warp our sense of reality all by itself.  Over and over we are shown that, “all happy people are beautiful,” as in glamour model, does-not-exist-in-reality beautiful, (see my earlier post Evolution?) and that “All beautiful people are successful, and happy because they own product X!” Obviously, my life just won’t be complete until I do, too.

But what about the bill of goods we’re being sold  under the guise of informing us.  I’m not talking about info-mercials.  The insidious part of all that’s being sold is a skewed perspective of our world, and CNN, FOX, and MSNBC are the frontrunners pitching us a load of crap.

We can dupe ourselves into believing that we’re becoming more informed about the world around us by watching the news, but this is a dangerous, misguided belief.  The news that we’re fed is designed to entertain us, and keep us wanting more.  The purposes of informing, educating, or enlightening come in, at most, as a second priority, and only when it helps achieve the primary goal of increasing profits.

Now we also are being inundated with “reality” t.v.  Now there’s an oxymoron.  (I love the fact that I can reference “reality” t.v. with an adjective that includes moronic.)   Fortunately I cannot claim expertise on these shows.  I have NEVER watched an episode of Survivor, American Idol, Jersey Shore, any of the Housewives, Dancing with the Stars, nor the Kardashians.  From the few episodes of such winners as Duck Dynasty, and The Ultimate Fighter  I’ve suffered through, I can verify that they all suck.  (I just tune into the last 10 minutes of The Ultimate Fighter for the fight)  There is very little reality in a group dynamic when you add a camera crew, and the profit motive that comes from knowing you’re gonna hit a big payday for being a dumb-ass.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker as a child that read, “Kill your television.”  For the life of me, I didn’t get it.  I just couldn’t figure out the joke.  Now I’ve got it, and it’s not a joke.  It’s not even remotely funny.  Turn that damnable box off and go do something.  Read a book.  Go outside.  Play solitaire.  Hug your kids.  Workout.  Go for a walk.  Knit a sweater.  Kill your television.  Really.

mainlogo2004





Man, the Logical Beast

26 11 2012

We humans pride ourselves on our logic.  Although there’s no consensus on what exactly distinguishes us from other species in regards to our cognitive capabilities, we recognize that we are in a class by ourselves, and part of what makes us unique is our ability to logically contemplate the world around us.  This enables us, individually and collectively, to make the wise decisions in our daily lives that keep us alive, and healthy, while our species progresses into the future.

If we’re so logical, how can there be so much contradicting diversity in human thought?

This presumption of astute intellect frequently often leads to much frustration and disappointment for me, when people, whether family, close friends, or John Q. P., fall short of my expectations.  I’m confronted, time and again, by the seeming inability of so many to see the fallacious nature of their thinking, and it’s tempting to assume that I’m surrounded by idiots.  (I even had a “surrounded by idiots” t-shirt once upon a time!)  How can it be that, even with all of our modern day access to knowledge, we still aren’t that smart?

I realize that much of my disillusionment comes from unrealistic expectations.  The state of being old enough to vote does not, in and of itself, imply the endowment of the facilities in logic which one might assume accompanies said age.

source: wikipedia

Way back in the recesses of my ancient past, I recall discussing Blooms Taxonomy in an educational psychology class. This model divides our intellectual development  into six levels, beginning with the basic ability to remember facts & figures, evolving through actually understanding and being able to apply those ideas, and finally reaching the pinnacle of human thought; evaluating and creating.  The key point of the discussion, for the sake of this post, was a statistic that has ever since burned in my brain: it’s estimated that 80% of the human population never gets much past the fourth level!

People retain information with varying degrees of success, and we each develop varying degrees of analytical prowess.  As if that weren’t bad enough, it turns out we selectively choose which information to heed, and which to deny, regardless of it’s validity. (see my previous post re: confirmation bias) It’s no wonder we “can’t all just get along.”

It may be hard to accept, but I’m coming to grips with the fact that I am just as susceptible as the next person to these forces that warp our ability to reason.

But wait, there’s more!

Our confirmation bias works in cahoots with another major player in warping our logic – our emotions.  I’ve spent years trying to develop better self control, because I recognized long ago that I don’t think clearly nor quickly when I’m pissed off.  Now I’ve got to keep an eye on the tendency to read or listen to only those sources that reinforce my beliefs? Man, this Constant and Never-ending Improvement stuff is a pain in the ass.

The emotional drama of Junior High – and to think I believed we would eventually grow up!

A fact I learned while running a martial art school: people buy on emotion, and then justify their purchase through logic.  This is why that car salesman wants to get you in the driver’s seat of that shiny, new BMW.  After you feel that leather interior, with that new-car smell, you can just picture yourself flying down the highway.  Once you want the car (emotion) you’ll come up with an entire list of reasons why you need the car (logic).

“Ooohhh, it’s so SHINEY!

It’s no different with martial arts lessons or fitness.  People sign up for both with images of grandeur (emotional).  They see their child as a confident, strong, wise martial arts master, or they picture themselves with the svelte body of an olympic athlete.  Then, with some impetus from an emotional trigger, (enrollments in the fitness industry peak annually during the first of the year) they sign up, and with the enthusiasm of a kid with a new toy, come up with a whole bunch of reasons why it’s the greatest thing ever. (logical)

Roller coaster rides should be reserved for amusement parks

This whole “cart-before-the -horse” works in reverse, too.  Those same people, after a few weeks or even months, will begin to lose their motivation.  The time commitment and effort involved begin to lose their new luster, fading into mundane routine.  Then, all it takes is one “bad” day during this lull in emotional high to flip the switch.  Now they start looking for every reason possible to reinforce the emotional desire to quit, and low and behold, they come up with a list of negatives as extensive as the list of positives from just weeks before!

The bottom line is this: we make most of our decisions based on our emotions – not logical conclusions based on evaluation of the facts, but knee-jerk emotional response to whatever stirs our heart.  Then our confirmation bias kicks in, looking only for proof to support our decision.  This silly emotional roller coaster isn’t reserved just for our decisions in consumption either.

Just take a look at the political scene of our most recent elections.  It sure seems that our political forum has been extremely vitriolic since the election cycle and subsequent election of our first African-American President in 2008. Perhaps it’s due to the “perfect storm” of our time.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by the global economic collapse, and finally the election of a black man to the “most powerful position in the world” have all culminated in pretty extraordinary circumstances.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget the Mayan calendar… and the fiscal cliff…

It’s like a bad movie script, and the media is playing it to the hilt.  The Tea Partiers are yelling, “Obama’s a muslim socialist and he’s setting up Death Panels!”  while the Occupy movement is chanting, “capitalism sucks and you rich people better pay up!”  I, for one, find myself stuck somewhere in the middle, watching the freak show, while the media cashes in, and our society pays the price for such polarized, and emotional debate.  But don’t forget: emotion sells!

It amazes me how many people are once again caught up in the emotional silliness of the moment.  The number of ridiculous posts on Facebook regarding our impending doom with President Obama’s reelection is mind-numbing.  Just like the predictable rise in health club enrollments at the turn of the new year, people start looking into moving to Canada when their candidate loses an election!

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/07/politics/us-election-bluster/index.html?iref=allsearch

 Although not as common, another completely immature emotional response is occurring in places like the fine state of Texas.  The same people who have put creationism right next to evolution in their school curricula have a petition to secede!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20301477

You all need to push back from the t.v., and go for a walk.





Politics and religion: taboo to you too?

29 10 2012

With the impending presidential election right around the corner, politics seem to be everywhere.  I’ve been trying to become more informed and involved the past few years, since I believe participation is a social obligation that we tend to take for granted.  It can be pretty overwhelming, though.  With all the resources available via the internet, I can really get sucked in, and become derelict in my duties as a father.  So I’ve gotta push back daily from the lap top, go outside & play with my girls.  This also helps me get a daily dose of some well-needed perspective.

I got into a little political “discussion” a while back on Facebook with a pretty close friend of mine.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Of course, we’re all aware of the danger of such a limited form of dialogue.  My wife keeps admonishing me not to get into these discussions, for fear we won’t have any friends who will speak to us. But sometimes, it just seems so necessary.  Sometimes things are just so inappropriate, or out of line, that is seems irresponsible not to say something.

You know what they say about politics and religion. 

Isn’t it sad?  Those are two things we SHOULD be talking about.  Two things that effect nearly every facet of our lives, and discussing them is taboo?   Instead we’re supposed to talk about the weather, sports, or what the idiots on Jersey Shore are up to?  Give me a break.  Are we, as grown-ups, still so immature that we can’t discuss anything in a social setting other than superficial crap?

So I once again dove into the deep water.

It all started with one of those damnable Tea Party posts that are designed to elicit an extreme emotional response.  You know the ones I mean.  Put up a photo of some dark skinned men with AK-47’s, replete with inflammatory headline, and  a brief statement containing perhaps a kernel of truth. (so long as the kernel supports your agenda, of course)

This one was regarding the Guantanamo Bay detainees.  My friend’s response was emotional, to say the least,  suggesting that perhaps committing atrocities on them would be a possible solution.  Turn about is fair play, and all that.

I could understand the anger and frustration he felt, however it seemed an inappropriate reaction to become the very thing we’re supposed to be fighting against; to succumb to our own anger and frustration, stoop to their level and behave just as ignorantly and grotesquely.  The debate went back and forth, eventually ending with the old “agreement to disagree.”

My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.

Our confirmation bias is such a powerful force, it can twist even the most intelligent person’s point of view.  Rather than me rehashing what so many have already covered, here’s a link to a great post I read last week that talks about the forces of the frequency illusion and confirmation bias and how they keep us entrenched in our beliefs, even when faced with the facts to the contrary.

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/23/confirmation-bias/

Simply stated, we hold a particular set of ideas as defining, in part, who we are.  When these beliefs are the very things being discussed or questioned, we can become rather defensive.  Without even realizing it, the debate begins to question our very sense of being, and that can be discomforting, to say the least.  That discomfort can cause us to become emotional in defending, in a sense, who we think we are.

The problem with this, it seems to me, is the more emotional people become, the less logical and rational they are.  Therefore, such emotional banner waving is antithetical to actually coming up with a resolution.

For this reason, I can’t help but hold emotional banner waving in total disdain. When I see a mob screaming, waving their fists, and burning a flag or someone in effigy, I think, “what a bunch of ignorant asses.”  Whether it’s a bunch of Iraqis burning our flag, or the Tea Partiers yelling obscenities at the homeless while waving posters of President Obama sporting a Hitler-esque mustache, or the Occupy Wall street crowd deriding free market capitalism while twittering about it on their iPhones, I think the vast majority of the crowd are behaving like idiots.  They’re caught up in the mob mentality of the moment, and that emotion is a powerfully contageous force.  It overrides any form of logic that might otherwise help develop reasonable discourse, and thereby lead to a sensible resolution.

We’ve all seen it; a post on Facebook, or some talking head in the media angrily ranting on ad nauseum, à la Glenn Beck.  Such immature, emotional tirades are no different than all those “others” chanting in front of an American embassy in <insert city of your choice here>, or the demonstrators dancing in the streets in front of the White House at the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Don’t misunderstand my intent here.  I can empathize with the emotions that people are feeling, when they’re so moved to go and demonstrate, or make some “public” statement in social media.  However, when they allow those emotions to completely take over, and justify their actions and words, no matter how hateful, ignorant, or just plain wrong they might be, then they’re behaving just like a spoiled little child having a tantrum.  How could anybody behaving in this manner expect to be taken seriously?





Integrity

16 08 2012

Who am I? Why are we all here? What’s my purpose? Ahh, yes, the big questions in life. Here’s another; Why are you even reading this? Let’s face it, Across the vast expanses of the world wide web, this insignificant blog entry is but a tiny speck.  I’m sure you could find something else to kill time while you’re sitting at your computer.  If you are reading this, (guess that’s already been established) it’s probably because you’re working out with me; otherwise you wouldn’t even know this page exists.  I imagine you’re hoping to get at least a bit of entertainment, or even a tid-bit that may help you with your fitness goals.  All right then, here it goes…

I got into the whole martial arts teaching gig because of my ideals.  I wanted to change the world. I wanted make it a better place.  Now, obviously This is no simple task; we human beings have been struggling for thousands of years on this and still haven’t gotten it right.  (Always being focused on “what’s in it for me right now” tends to distract the individual from any higher purpose.)  I realized that to accomplish such a task would require generations of individuals working in the same direction.  Conclusion? The education of our future generations is the key to really having any lasting impact, and what better place to do it than in an environment where self-reflection, self-evaluation, continual growth, and constant improvement are the goals, while ideals like courtesy, compassion, integrity, and self-discipline, are the guiding principles?

You would think our public school system would be up to the task, but having worked in that environment, I found that it, too, tends to be focused on the same “what’s in it for me, right now” mentality.  Religion provides us with another opportunity to learn & grow (making the world a better place by guiding us to be better people), but obviously we have managed to drop the ball in the name of religion more than a few times in our history.

In the end, I opted to follow the martial art route.  It proved to be a relatively successful path.  It took me from Montana to Korea, and eventually landed me here in California.  I’ve personally learned more than I can even begin to describe about myself and the people around me.  I’ve met many individuals who were also striving to make the world a better place, while helping others improve their lives.  Our school here in Roseville was a huge success in creating a positive environment where a lot of great families were able to grow as individuals and as a community.

However, as with all human endeavors, even the martial arts world is plagued by individuals suffering from the same human weaknesses that infect our public schools and religious institutions.  The competition of the market place pays little heed to how you do business, so long as your bottom-line is in the black, and I found myself in competition with people who, for lack of a better term, may have been “morally challenged,” or who found a way to change the very nature of what it is we martial artists do in order to make it more palatable to the consumer.  Unfortunately many of them also had a business acumen that is top notch.  to be competitive in this market place I continually found myself engaged in activities that, although not illegal, were at least bordering on being contradictory to the ideals I espoused.  I decided it was time to get out, as I couldn’t play that game and maintain my Integrity.  I had to come up with a new plan; a different business model that represented the ideals I chose, as opposed to those dictated by the market place.

integrity |inˈtegritē|noun
1 the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
2 the state of being whole and undivided
• the condition of being unified,unimpaired, or sound in construction
• internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Don’t SAY things. What you ARE stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”  Although not as eloquent, my take on this is simple: If you want to be truly satisfied with your life, whether in your fitness, in your work, or as a parent, you’ve got to have Integrity.  your words and your actions must be congruent.  When what we say, how we act, and how we think aren’t congruent, we have created a reality that will eventually bite us in the ass. (ouch!)

Now I spend most of my time just trying to raise my daughters to the best of my ability.

Suffice it to say, I’m still working on that plan.  I’m still teaching, a bit, reading as much as possible, and training every day.  The new plan is a work in progress, albeit slow progress, as I’m too busy living life.  Raising three children seems to take up most of my time these days, and it is time well spent.  They are three amazing little girls who are learning all about living with courtesy, compassion, integrity, and self-discipline.  Perhaps we’ll change this world yet.








Werneck Family Jiu Jitsu

World Class Training in a Family Environment

Freakonomics

Musings of an aspiring martial artist and father