Archives For Life Fulfillment

“Let me know if I can help” – I’m guilty of saying it, as most of us probably are. It gives us a sense of relief as we feel we’re there for somebody, even if we have no intentions of helping. We feel like we’re doing the right thing and surely, if they need help, they’ll reach out to us. But rarely would it ever go like that.

When someone is going through something challenging, the last thing they want to do is bug other people. It may be the hardest thing of their life, they may have lost someone close to them or had a major life-changing event that’s left them in the pit of despair. They won’t look up the list of people who told them to “let me know if I can help” and start calling up for favors.

It’s the easy way out, and I’m definitely guilty of it, so I hope you don’t feel like I’m standing on the podium talking down; instead, I’m reprimanding myself for all the times I’ve offered this self-soothing form of assistance.

If you really want to help someone, don’t tell them to let you know if you can help, but instead, just help. Think of the thing that would help them, and do it. I recently heard an incredibly powerful example of this from a reader of the blog, let’s call him John, and it truly touched me.

John told me they had a friend who had a sick family member who they’d have to provide assistance. It would cause them to miss work for quite sometime, and they would also have to pitch in for medical bills. John got the usual offers of assistance to help, if of course he’d reach out to the person offering and let them know what he needed.

Then, John had a family friend show up at his house. The visitor didn’t know how to approach the situation, but he knew the amount of pain the family was going through and he felt compelled to help. Instead of coming with empty offers of assistance, he came with an envelope full of cash because he knew they’d need it to help get them through, and he came with a heart overflowing with empathy and support.

It was more money than John would’ve expected or wanted from anyone, but in the back of his mind, he knew he would need it. In fact, John knew the kind donor had been saving the money for a new house and this would set them back substantially, but that didn’t stop them from giving.

It was an incredible act of selflessness and sacrifice that showed the beauty in humanity. We’re human when we show compassion and empathy for those in need; we’re human when we set the example for others of how things should be done.

I wanted to share this story with you so we can help pay it forward to someone else. This has definitely changed the way I’ll help those in need, and I’ll always think before I say “Let me know if I can help”.

If you can read this, you’re part of the select few in the world who was born into a good deal. It means you probably have working electricity and internet, enjoy enough freedom of speech to read crazy blogs, and are allowed opportunities to make money and move ahead in life. You won the birth lottery!

Winning the birth lottery does not guarantee you success or riches, but it does give you a ticket to the dance. If you’re reading this from the US or a western European country, you’re one of the luckier birth lottery winners as you enjoy a higher level of freedom and education than most other countries.

However, there are some clear losers in the birth lottery. If you’re born into a country led by dictators like North Korea, you’re probably on this unlucky list. If you’re born into the poor mountain tribes of Laos, like the beautiful little girl we saw hopping on a river barge with her father to go sell produce, you’re probably also on the losing side. She will hopefully have a great life, but her lack of access to education and basic health care will present some major hurdles.

Most people are born without much of a chance in life to advance beyond basic survival. Nearly half of the world lives in poverty, which means less than $2.5 per day. This is not because they’re savages with lower intellects, but instead they just didn’t win the birth lottery. They were born into countries and conditions where basic survival was the highest aspiration and intellectual enhancement was an afterthought. They definitely didn’t choose this just as I didn’t choose to be born in the US.

Unfortunately, we even have the birth lottery divide within the US. We saw it in New Orleans where a child born into the lower 9th ward (usually minority) is going to have a much harder chance of making it than a child born into a well off family and sent to private school. Is it because the poor kid is dumb and success to him looks like a drug dealer who has a nice car because that’s his only example?

Examples reside along racial boundaries as well as basic socioeconomic differences. I went to a small high school in Oklahoma where roughly 25-35% of the students went to college. I have a friend from the northeast whose class went to college at a ~95% rate and most of them went to Ivy League schools! They were raised from the beginning knowing they were expected to go to college and they were given the support required, but most of the kids in my school weren’t.

You can also look at other minority groups such as Native Americans. I can’t speak with as much experience with the reservations as I’ve only been through them a few times, but many of them live in similar conditions to third world countries. They’re born on the batter’s deck while others are born on second or third base. The birth lottery can be dissected even further by health, natural intelligence and/or ambition, stable family atmospheres or other opportunities.

I can’t stand it when people look down on others who weren’t born into as fortunate circumstance as them. They’ll usually assume all things are equal and say those people are lazy because they didn’t have the drive to go to college or don’t want to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and would rather live off of government assistance. That might be the case for some people, but more often that not, it’s due to the circumstance they were born into.

Believe it or not, this is more than a rant. This is a note to whoever needs it, including myself. The world is not an equal place and as we’ve seen over the last few months, we’re as divided as ever. However, this division should not make us forget that while we might be “created equal”,  we aren’t born equal, and we don’t get to choose where we start. There are longstanding belief systems in place that shape our thoughts and identities. There are socioeconomic barriers in place that mean we all start on different levels.

This also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunities you’re born into. Just because I was born in the US to great parents who raised me well, doesn’t mean I’m moving to Myanmar to live in poverty out of my own guilt. No, it means I need to start at my level and continue to grow, to continue to take advantage of the opportunities offered to me – which as a college educated white male are already many levels higher than others.

Kids watching our "slow boat" pass on the Mekong

Kids watching our “slow boat” pass on the Mekong River in Laos. 

Ayn Rand Inspiration for 2016

December 27, 2015 — 1 Comment

If you’re not familiar with Ayn Rand, I’m writing a post that will come out in a few weeks with my full biased review and explanation of her philosophies. I’ve had quite a cycle starting with an obsession with her philosophies and going “all in” on her objectivism, to then disagreeing with most of her stances, to now being a bit more neutral and pulling some things I like and discarding the rest.

Regardless of my own cyclical thoughts and tendencies, the fact remains there’s a lot of merit in her writing and philosophies and she has some really great quotes. With quotes from Rand’s powerful book Atlas Shrugged, I wish you a prosperous 2016!

I’ll start with my favorite quote of Rand’s that continues to drive my quest for a BREAK FREE lifestyle

“What greater wealth is there than to own your own life and to spend it on growing?”

This really drives my interaction with work and money along with my desire to create a lifestyle where I get to focus on my wife and my visions – and not spend it all working in a job I may not want. However, to get to this point, you have to realize the system we live in and avoid things like this

“A viler evil than to murder a man is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue”

I equate “suicide” in this quote with giving up your life for the profit of someone else. Work is necessary to get to where you want to go:

“there’s no such thing as a lousy job – only lousy men who don’t care to do it”

However, dedicating your entire life to a job you hate because you need to pay the bills on a bunch of crap you don’t need is the suicide. But you can take control of your money and think about how you can pursue the things you want to pursue.

“Thought is a weapon one uses in order to act.  Thought is the tool by which one makes a choice.  Thought sets one’s purpose and the way to reach it”

Think. Act. Make the decision to live the life you want to live. Don’t be another cog in the wheel, unless of course you want to.

“this is what they want of me, this is where they want me – neither living nor dead, neither thinking nor insane, but just a chunk of pulp that screams with fear, to be shaped by them as they please, they who have no shape of their own.”

No matter where you have to start, just start.

“Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little.  Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know?  Live and act within the limit of your knowledge an keep expanding it to the limit of your life.  Accept the fact that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible – that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”

Know your life is incredibly valuable

“to live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life:  reason – purpose – self-esteem.  Reason, as his only tool of knowledge – purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve – Self-esteem, as his inviolated certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means:  is worthy of living.”

You have the potential

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.”

And if you haven’t already, find the why

“the desire not to be anything, is the desire not to be”

Because in the end,

“What greater wealth is there than to own your own life and to spend it on growing?”

Ever feel like your job locks you into a prison like environment with rows of cubicles and a boss always hovering around? If that’s the case, then good news, Whole Foods wouldn’t even sell you because you’d be considered a Step 0 in their Animal Welfare Rating! Whole Foods wouldn’t even consider you until you have no cages, no crates and less crowding!

As I was shopping the other day in their overstimulated world of brightly colored vegetables, GMO-free Cheerios and super cool employees, I thought about how relevant the rating scale is for our jobs. Sure, success and pay can’t be measured by their animal welfare rating, but if you’re like me, happiness as measured by freedom, might be. Continue Reading…

Our conversations are only about the necessities of getting through the week:  what we’ll have for dinner, who will feed Lucy (our dog) or what we need to get done on Saturday – the one day we both have off from work. We no longer debate whether Westerners are helping or hurting things in Cambodia through voluntourism, how to solve the Israel/Palestine crisis or discuss the purpose of our lives.

We no longer spend time going on long hikes, enjoy quiet time together or allow ourselves to binge watch a season of The Voice. We no longer have time for each other.

When we traveled the world together for nine months, we evolved our relationship to a level I previously thought unattainable. We went from being best friends who happened to be married, to soul mates who worked in harmony towards collective goals and a common mission. We were traveling the world together and depended on each other to get through it. Continue Reading…